When The Prosecutor Offers A Plea Deal
After your attorney submits the notice of appearance and evidence request, receives all necessary and relevant evidence, and has an opportunity to discuss potential defenses with the prosecutors, the prosecutor may offer a plea deal.
It is the role of the prosecutor to represent the state. Therefore, the prosecutor decides whether the plea deal is reasonable based on their discretion about the charges and underlying facts and circumstances surrounding the case.
As a first-time DWI offender, you would typically be looking at fines ranging from $600 to $800, a period of license suspension, a period of having an interlock device installed in your vehicle, as well as completing 12 to 48 hours of an intoxicated driver resource center program.
The Penalties For DWI Cases In NJ
All the penalties for first, second, and subsequent convictions that New Jersey imposes for DWIs can be found in my FAQ on www.jsdlegalnj.com. A less detailed summary of the penalties is as follows:
- First Offense: If the blood alcohol content (BAC) reading for the person who was operating the vehicle was between 0.08 and 0.10%, there is a fine imposed between $250 and $400, detainment of 12 to 48 hours over two consecutive days, and the possibility of a term of imprisonment of not more than 30 days.If the driver of the vehicle’s BAC reading was between 0.10 and 0.15%, or if the driver was under the influence of drugs, the court will order the driver to stop driving until an ignition interlock device is installed in the vehicle. Under this circumstance, the fine also increases to $500. The period of detainment remains at not less than 12 hours or more than 48 hours over two consecutive days, with the same possibility of a term of imprisonment of not more than 30 days.If the driver is convicted of driving under the influence of drugs, the convicted person will forfeit the right to drive a vehicle for at least seven months up to a maximum of twelve months.If the driver of the vehicle’s BAC is 0.15% or higher, the driver will forfeit the right to drive a vehicle for not less than four months or longer than six months AFTER installing an ignition interlock device. The driver will also pay fines and surcharges that total at least $6,500, which includes court fines, surcharges to the state, and your insurance company increases. Such charges are subject to increases.Note: the ignition interlock adds more than $1,000 to your costs.
- Second Offense: A driver charged with a second DWI offense will be subject to a fine of not less than $500 and not more than $1,000, will be ordered to perform community service for 30 days, and be sentenced to imprisonment for a term of not less than 48 consecutive hours and not more than 90 days.Upon conviction, the driver will forfeit the privilege to operate a vehicle for not less than one year and not more than two years. After the expiration of the driver’s license forfeiture, the driver will have to apply to the Motor Vehicle Commission for a license to operate a motor vehicle, which may or may not be granted.Second offenses also require installing an ignition interlock device.
- Third or Subsequent Offenses: The driver of the vehicle will be subject to a fine of $1,000, and sentenced to imprisonment for a term of not less than 180 days in a county jail or workhouse. If the driver participates in a drug or alcohol inpatient rehabilitation program, the 180-day jail term can be reduced. In any case, the driver will forfeit the right to operate a motor vehicle for eight years.If DUI/DWI happens in a school zone, the penalties double.
Defending Yourself In A DWI Cases In NJ
You aren’t required to hire an attorney if you are charged with a criminal offense. It is, however, in your best interest to get a free consultation at the least. This is because an experienced DWI attorney will always get a better result for you than if you were to defend yourself.
While I’ll never pressure anyone to retain me, I will say that you cannot stress the importance of knowing your rights and possible defenses enough. I have been practicing law for nearly a decade. This means I’ve been in court at least three times a week defending clients charged with these types of offenses… and that adds up to over 1,500 cases. It also means that time and time again, I have seen firsthand the difference that a knowledgeable attorney can make in a person’s court outcome.
Keep in mind that a public defender has dozens of cases, if not hundreds of cases on their docket. That means they probably won’t have the time needed to give proper attention to your case. By consulting with an attorney that you retain for yourself, you can find out what it looks like to have an advocate who’s focused on getting you the best outcome.
After a consultation, you are the one who will decide how to proceed: whether you choose a public defender, to defend yourself, or hire a private attorney like me – the path forward is up to you.
Not Hiring An Attorney Because You Are Going To Plead Guilty
A lot of people question why they would bother paying an attorney when they plan to plead guilty. It’s a fair question. However, you need to be aware that there are a lot of unforeseen expenses that come up with being found guilty of DUI.
Some of these unforeseen expenses include:
- Excessive court fines
- Higher car insurance rates
- Fines to install and maintain an interlock device in your vehicle(s)
- A surcharge of $1,000/year for three years that can be imposed by the Motor Vehicle Commission
- And more…
By hiring an experienced DWI attorney, you can make sure to avoid the worst consequences that come with a conviction. What’s more, if your attorney can identify a strategy that gets you a truly favorable result, you can not only avoid having to pay all the fees that are associated with this type of offense, you might be able to avoid having a DWI on your record at all.
Plausible Defenses To DWI Cases In New Jersey
There’s an array of plausible defenses to DWI cases in NJ which are formulated on a case-by-case basis. The most common defenses lie in showing that the tests used to “prove” that you were intoxicated should not be admissible as evidence against you in court. You can do this by…
- Disputing the accuracy of the breathalyzer test.In New Jersey, a BAC reading at or above 0.08% is sufficient to sustain a DWI conviction. However, you must question whether the machine used to take the initial reading might have been malfunctioning or not properly maintained. Defective breathalyzer machines and improperly administered tests are far from uncommon. As a result, it is imperative to ensure that your testing mechanism was fair before holding you to any result it may have produced.
- Showing that the officer didn’t hold a 20-minute observation period.In a New Jersey DWI investigation, police must observe you for an uninterrupted period of 20 minutes to ensure that you did not burp, regurgitate, or put anything into your mouth that might disrupt or cause an inaccurate BAC reading. For instance, if the officer notices chewing gum or tobacco in your mouth, they are required to restart the 20-minute period before administering a breathalyzer.
- Showing that field sobriety tests conducted by the officer were improperly administered.If the officer had reasonable suspicion to believe that you were operating the vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs, he should have requested you to step outside of the vehicle to conduct a series of standard field sobriety tests. The officer not only is required to have completed courses and receive the certification to conduct these tests, but he is also required to ensure that he is following the standard operating procedures.
If the officer did not conduct the test properly in any of these instances, the result is not admissible against you in court. However, the only way to tell if you have a hole like this in your case is to work with an expert who has the knowledge needed to identify the subtle factors that can lead to a dismissal.