Driving under the influence is a serious offense that could affect your employment and future. And while it’s permissible to represent yourself in court; is it worth getting a lawyer for a DUI in NJ?
Yes, getting a DUI lawyer is worth every penny. A good DUI lawyer is educated and trained in blood testing, DUI breath and the science and law behind DUI cases. With this knowledge and experience, they can plead down cases to lesser offenses or have your charges dismissed. And when the stakes are high, they can help you avoid jail time or a license suspension.
Let’s have a deeper look at the seriousness of DUI charges in New Jersey and how hiring a lawyer will make your life easier.
Why It’s Worth Hiring a Lawyer for Your DUI Case
DUIs are serious offenses. Yes, there are other more serious crimes, but DUI charges come with serious implications that will affect the quality of the life you lead. Below are some reasons why hiring a DUI lawyer is worth it.
Suppose you were unfortunate enough to have 50+ DUI cases. In that case, you’d automatically start to see a pattern in how the cases are handled just by being exposed to the situation multiple times. You’ll notice that one judge dismisses DUI motions for specific reasons, and another dismisses charges for different reasons. Also, you’ll notice some types of evidence carry more weight than others.
A DUI lawyer doesn’t only have the benefit of being exposed to the same court, people and situation multiple times, but they also have specific training and education. They understand DUI blood and breath testing and the science and law behind DUI cases. As such, they are better placed to get you better results.
In some instances (depending on the court and judge of the day), the court can grant fee suspension for defendants facing financial hardships. Given that DUI cases are expensive (over $1,000), saving fees will help you. Moreover, if your DUI lawyer gets the case reduced to a lesser charge like reckless driving with alcohol or an infraction, you could save even more in fines, insurance, alcohol school and fees.
Cost vs. Benefit
When the stakes are high, it’s even more worthwhile to have a DUI attorney. Think of it as a comparison between the cost of a DUI lawyer vs. what they’ll get you. Generally, DUI cases are complex, but there’s a possibility of dismissal. But when it’s your second or third DUI case, you are faced with mandatory jail time, lengthy alcohol school and huge fines. You stand a better chance when a professional handles the process for you.
Fighting a DUI case involves piecing together relevant evidence to help your case. With a DUI lawyer, this is their job. They have the time and are trained in getting relevant evidence for DUI cases. They’ll not leave any stone unturned and will complete a full legal review of every defense in your case.
Common Mistakes Defendants Make When Representing Themselves
A lot of people charged with DUI for the first time opt to represent themselves since they think they’ll get a light sentence – this is a big mistake. While judges can be lenient to first-time offenders, the leniency can only get you so far.
Other mistakes people make stem from not knowing NJ DUI laws. If you don’t know the law, there are a lot of things your defense will miss. Do not think the prosecutor or the police are inclined to help you. They are often not forthcoming with advice and answers to your questions because their primary goal is to get a conviction.
Unfortunately, DUI is an offense the police and the general public frown upon. So no one will be doing you any favors if you choose to go it alone.
What’s the penalty for a first-time DUI in NJ?
The penalty for a first-time DUI offender includes a 4-6 month license suspension, 12 hours of drunk driving courses, it is required that you install a breathalyzer in your car, and fines between $250 and $400.
The severity of the DUI consequences in NJ depends on the blood alcohol content and if you’ve had past offenses. The BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration) is separated into three categories:
0.08 – .09% BAC
0.10 – .14% BAC
The penalties assigned to each category are as detailed below:
- 1st Time DUI offense (0.08% – 0.09%)
- Fines between $250 and $400
- A $1000 annual car insurance surcharge for 3 years
- Other surcharges and fees of $350
- Ignition Interlock requirement for 90 days
- Two days, 12-hour mandatory alcohol classes at the IDRC (Intoxicated Driver Resource Center)
- 1st Time DUI Offense (BAC 0.10%-.14%)
- Fines between $300 and $500
- Additional penalties as detailed above
- Ignition Interlock for 7-12 months
If you cannot pay the fines, your driving license might be suspended indefinitely. Also, the MVC (Motor Vehicle Commission) might file a claim in Superior Court to garnish your wages or get a lien against your property.
2nd DUI Penalties
Repeat DUI offenders receive more severe consequences. The consequences aren’t categorized based upon BAC. DUI offenders with 0.08% and over 0.10% receive similar possible penalties. New Jersey recognizes 2nd DUI offenses within ten years of the first DUI offense.
The penalties are as follows:
- Fines between $500 and $1,000
- 30 days community service
- Between 12 and 48 hours in the IDRC
- $3,000 surcharges in automobile insurance for three years
- Jail time between 2 and 90 days
- Mandatory license suspension for 1-2 years
- You must install an ignition interlock device for 2-4 years
These penalties are on top of other costs and surcharges, including $100 Alcohol Education and Rehabilitation Fund, between $230 and $280 for the IDRC fees, a $75 Neighborhood Services Fund surcharge and more.
3rd Time DUI offenders
*It has to be within ten years of the second DUI charge and a minimum of 0.08% BAC. The penalties involved include:
- A $1,000 fine
- 48 hours of IDRC
- $3,000 automobile insurance surcharge in 3 years
- 180 days in jail
- License suspension for eight years
- You must install an ignition interlock device for 2-4 years
Can a DUI be dismissed in NJ?
Yes, it can. Usually, it happens when there are legal defects with the case and you are represented by an experienced attorney. For instance, when there is a lack of probable cause or reasonable suspicion, or the Miranda rights weren’t read, illegal case delays by the prosecutor, faulty Alcotest results including untrained officers submitting the results, or blood and urine test samples obtained without a warrant.
If you are faced with DUI charges in NJ, you should speak to a DUI lawyer. The lawyer will discuss the defenses available. Even if it’s your first offense, you should take the charges seriously as the consequences can be damning. With the cost implications and lifestyle-changing penalties on the line, it is advisable to get a lawyer.