Stopped for DUI in New Jersey: 6 Things to Know
In order to offer programs and services to help impaired drivers, many states require drivers convicted of DWI to help to fund these programs. New Jersey is no different. If you are convicted of DWI, you will be imposed surcharges of $100 each for the state’s Drunk Driving Enforcement Fund, Violent Crimes Restoration Fee and Intoxicated Driver Program Fee. Convicted drivers also will be charged a $1,000 surcharge to the New Jersey DMV – for three years. In addition to education and treatment programs for impaired drivers, the surcharge also helps New Jersey pay state bond debt. These surcharges are independent of fines for a DWI conviction.
If you are stopped for suspicion of DWI in New Jersey, here are 6 things you should know.
1. Implied consent and sobriety testing
The Implied Consent Law in New Jersey says that all drivers consent in advance to submit to a chemical test as a trade-off for the privilege of having a driver’s license in the state. That means if an officer with probable cause to suspect you are impaired requests that you submit to a blood, urine or breath test – normally conducted at a police station – that test is covered by the consent law. However, DWI defense attorneys say a second, common test requested by police – the field sobriety test – is not covered by the Implied Consent Law. Drivers are free to politely refuse to submit to this exam, which might require walking or moving at the direction of the officer. Some attorneys say the test is flawed and can lead to a positive result even for a sober driver.
2. Refusing the chemical test
Despite the Implied Consent Law, some drivers believe it is in their best interest to refuse to submit to a chemical test request. That could lead to their vehicle being impounded and their driver’s license will definitely be suspended 7 months for a first offense and 2 years on a second offense. New Jersey attorneys say refusing the test doesn’t impact the state’s DWI case against the driver. It is common for drivers to be convicted based on testimony from the police officer and the fact they refused the chemical test – which prosecutors will argue indicates guilt.
3. You will probably be videotaped
The old adage is that “the camera never lies.” But DWI defense attorneys say that’s not true. It’s possible for a sober driver in a video of a DWI stop to look impaired by losing balance briefly while stepping out of the car or being unable to find car insurance information. Since more and more DWI stops are being filmed in New Jersey and elsewhere, attorneys say it’s important to know your rights in that situation. You do have to identify yourself and provide proof of insurance and the vehicle registration. But you don’t have to engage in conversation with the officer and you don’t have to consent to a search of the vehicle. You should, however, exit the car if ordered. Saying and doing as little as possible, while remaining courteous to the officer is the best bet, according to attorneys.
4. More than .08 to worry about
Did you know there is a separate blood alcohol limit for commercial drivers – those that handle buses and big rigs? A driver with a commercial driver’s license can be arrested for DWI with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of just .04. The law is strictest when it comes to young drivers. Any driver under the age of 21 can be arrested with a BAC of .02 – the equivalent of a single drink for many individuals. The limit for most adult drivers in the state is .08, although New Jersey has more severe penalties once a driver’s BAC is above .10.
5. DUI penalties in New Jersey
A first DWI conviction is punishable for up to 30 days in jail, a fine of up to $500 and a license suspension ranging between 3 months and 1 year. In addition, drivers interested in a restricted license during the suspension period must have an ignition interlock device installed on their vehicle. First offenders also must get between 12 and 48 hours of Alcohol Education and Rehabilitation services. The penalties increase for subsequent offenses within a 10 year period. A third DWI conviction is punishable for up to 6 months in jail, a $1,000 fine and a 10-year driver’s license suspension.
6. Total cost of a DUI in New Jersey
One New Jersey DWI defense attorney estimated that most drivers will find it difficult to spend less than $7,000 on fines, fees and other incidentals related to a first conviction. The court fine is up to $400 with another $1,600 in surcharges, $75 for the Neighborhood Services Fund, $350 for Alcohol Education and Rehabilitation Program and a minimum of $1,500 to $2,000 for a lawyer. The costs also include car insurance, which could run at least $1,000 to $1,500 a year more following a DWI conviction. It’s difficult to put a cost to the loss of reputation and potential loss of employment that can occur with a DWI conviction, particularly if your job required driving as part of the employment duties.
This article is for informational purposes only. If you need legal advice, you should consult an attorney.