What Is A DUI?
In New Jersey, a person with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or greater who operates a motor vehicle or a boat is considered to be driving under the influence (DUI).
A lower 0.04% limit applies for drivers who operate a commercial vehicle, such as a tow truck, bus, or tractor trailer.
Drivers under the age of 21 are considered impaired if they have any amount of alcohol in their system at all (in other words, a BAC above 0.00%).
New Jersey drivers should be aware that the state’s “Implied Consent Law” requires motorists to submit to chemical testing if an officer suspects you of driving under the influence. Designed to calculate BAC, chemical tests detect the amount of alcohol found in a driver’s breath, blood, or urine. The Implied Consent Law makes it illegal for a driver to refuse to submit to chemical testing, and the penalties for refusing a chemical test can be more severe than for failing a chemical test. In addition, refusing to take a chemical test does not prevent an officer from issuing a DUI citation, nor does it ensure a prosecutor will be unable to convict you of DUI.
Are DUIs A Big Deal?
The consequences of being convicted of a DUI are serious. In New Jersey, the punishment for a DUI offense varies based your blood alcohol level at the time of arrest and number of prior offenses, if any.
Punishment can include: jail time, hefty fines, license suspension, community service, and/or the forced installation of an ignition interlock device in your vehicle. Other non-legal consequences can also flow from a DUI conviction – offenders’ insurance rates increase dramatically and having a conviction on your driver history record can negatively impact your employment prospects.
What are my chances of fighting a DUI conviction?
Being charged with DUI does not mean you will be convicted. However, the state will do all in its power to attempt to convict you because New Jersey does not allow plea bargaining in DWI cases – the prosecutors are legally prevented from offering deals.
Our firm has successfully defended many persons charged with DUI, getting them reduced sentences or avoiding conviction entirely. Although each case is unique, and we cannot guarantee a certain result in any individual case, there are a number of defenses to DUI.
The law requires the state to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty. If the state does not have the evidence to support its charge against you, conviction is unconstitutional. Thus, attacking the state’s evidence is an effective defense tactic.
As mentioned above, the state most often relies on chemical testing to determine BAC. Despite being widely used, these tests are not 100% accurate. Often times these chemical tests are also improperly administered or the results thrown into question by incorrect handling. If the state’s case is built on a questionable chemical test, the likelihood of conviction is significantly decreased.
The state may also present evidence obtained during a field sobriety test – such as failure to walk a straight line or inability to recite the alphabet. These tests are notoriously inaccurate, and can also be successfully challenged. It is rare that someone is convicted for failure to pass a field sobriety test without other evidence of intoxication.
Other officer-observed behavior, such as driving at inconsistent speeds or swerving, is also subject to attack.
While statements that you made regarding your intoxication, like telling an officer you had 5 drinks at dinner, can most likely be used against you, other testimonial evidence may be successfully excluded. For example, we have successfully challenged the use of eyewitness statements.
Do I have to go to court to fight my DUI conviction?
Typically, yes. Unless you reside out-of-state or a long distance from the location of the citation, you must generally come to court in order to challenge your conviction.
The DWI/DUI defense attorneys of Sitzler & Sitzler are well versed in all local and state-wide DWI regulations and are experienced in interacting with police departments, prosecutors and the department of motor vehicles. If you have been arrested for DWI/DUI, contact our law firm today to speak with one of our knowledgeable attorneys.