Of all the traffic tickets you can receive this is one of the most serious. It is one of the few things which cannot be pled down to a lesser charge, including murder. The penalties for driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs can be life-changing: 3 loss of license months for a first offender who is visibly intoxicated, 7-12 months for a breath test reading of over .10, and up to 30 days in jail; 30 days for those under the age of 21 who have ANY alcohol on their breath, and those with a commercial driver license also face various penalties.
You can get a DWI for being able to operate any motor vehicle on a public street. This includes boats, or even a car that has run out of gas. In addition to the loss of license there are various fines and mandatory programs which you must attend. For a second offense, you face 2 year loss of license and 90 days in jail; for a third offense, it is a 10 year loss of license and a mandatory 6 months in jail.
DWIs are the some of the most complicated types of cases for a criminal practitioner to handle. This does not mean they cannot be won, it means that there are many moving parts, and many angles that need to be addressed in order to succeed. For example:
Were you even driving?
The State has to prove that you were operating a motor vehicle before they can try to prove anything else.
Why was your car stopped?
A police officer needs to have reasonable and articulable suspicion that you were breaking a criminal or traffic law before they can pull you over.
How did you perform on the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests?
Even sober people fail the balance tests. This is why they must be administered under strict procedures and instructions to ensure accuracy.
Why you were arrested?
There may not have been enough proof for police to take you into custody and bring you in for a breath test.
What were the circumstances surrounding your breath test?
Many factors can affect the accuracy of the test's readings, including whether the plastic mouthpiece you blew into was changed, whether you were observed for 20 minutes before the breath test to ensure you did not burp or belch, whether all electronics were taken out of the room during the test, and whether the machine had been calibrated properly, as well as many many others.
If you refused to take a breath test, were you informed of the penalties for refusing?
You must be informed of the penalties for refusal if the police think that you are opting not to blow into the machine.
If blood was drawn from you, did you give consent to take your blood for testing?
In NJ, you cannot be forced to provide a blood sample without your consent or a particular warrant from a judge permitting an officer to take it.
Are you a woman over the age of 60 charged with refusal?
The NJ Supreme Court has held that women over the age of 60 may have challenges with blowing into the Alcotest machine, which could result in a false refusal charge.
Are you a diabetic?
When diabetics go into insulin shock, they act erratically and their bodies begin to process in a way that their breath smells like alcohol.
Do you have any permanent dental work?
It is possible that alcohol can get trapped inside the crevices of your bridge or dentures, which can lead to a breath test result that is higher than it should be.
There are also cases that arise from a DWI that expose you to penalties that pale in comparison to the DWI:
Vehicular Manslaughter - Getting into a motor vehicle accident which results in the death of another person.
Assault by Auto - Getting into a motor vehicle accident which results in injury to another person.
Endangering the Welfare of a Minor - Operating a motor vehicle after drinking with a minor child in the car.