In New Jersey, the terms DUI (driving under the influence) and DWI (driving while intoxicated) can be used mostly interchangeably. There aren’t different laws governing separate charges under these monikers.
However, if you’re charged with driving while intoxicated, the specifics of the case do matter when it comes to the potential outcomes. That includes the outcome of any DWI testing and whether you’re charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or a drug or medication DWI.
A criminal law attorney can help you understand the nature of the charges you’re facing and what options you might have for defense, including potential alternative sentencing.
One common question about DUI or DWI is whether or not it’s charged as a felony crime. There isn’t actually a one-size-fits-all answer to this question, because in New Jersey, DUIs can be charged on a variety of levels.
First, you should know that New Jersey law doesn’t refer to crimes as misdemeanors and felonies, as is common in other states. Instead, the law divides charges into disorderly persons offenses (similar to misdemeanors) and indictable crimes (similar to felonies).
DUI charges are actually considered traffic violations, though obviously more serious ones than something like a typical speeding ticket or rolling stop violation. The factors associated with the specific case involving a DUI charge determine whether or not it is upgraded to a disorderly persons offense or indictable crime.
For DWI charges involving alcohol, the exact charges depend on blood alcohol levels and whether you have any prior DWI convictions on your record. The potential penalties associated with the charge also depend on these factors. For example, even upon a first offense, there is a difference in penalties between a charge that involves a blood alcohol content of 0.08% and a BAC of 0.10%.
You can also be charged with a DUI in New Jersey if you are found to be driving impaired while under the influence of drugs. That includes legal prescription drugs.
The prosecution does have to demonstrate some specific facts to successfully charge someone with DUI based on prescription drug use. First, they must demonstrate that the driver did, in fact, take prescription drugs. It also must be proven that the drugs were in the person’s system at the time they were stopped and the officer suspected a DUI situation. Blood or urine tests are often used to determine such facts.
However, the presence of a legal prescription drug doesn’t automatically make a DUI prosecutor’s case, which is different from a case involving alcohol use or illegal drugs. The prosecution also has to make a case that the driver was acting in an unsafe manner and that the reason for that unsafe driving was the influence of the drugs in their system.
The potential consequences of a DWI conviction in New Jersey depend on the unique factors of your case.
If it is a first offense alcohol-related DUI, and your BAC is above 0.08% but below 0.10%, you could face a fine between $250 and $400, time in jail or prison up to 30 days, and requirements for an ignition interlock device. You may also have to spend 12 total hours in an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center and face surcharges for your auto insurance. Fines and ignition interlock device requirements can be more severe if your BAC was 0.10% or higher. The consequences for a first offense drug-related DUI are similar, and if you’re found with illegal drugs, you may face other charges.
A second DUI conviction can result in more severe consequences. That can include a fine of $500 to $1,000 and 48 hours to 90 days in jail or prison. Your license could be suspended for one to two years, and you may need to serve community service time. Once your license is restored, you may still need to pay for and deal with an ignition interlock device in your vehicle for up to four years.
Third offenses also carry more serious consequences. The fine at this point can be as high as $1,000 and you may be incarcerated for up to 180 days. You could lose your license for eight years and face all the other consequences of first or second offenses too. That includes potential community service, ignition interlock requirements, and auto insurance surcharges.
Whether you’re facing a charge of driving under the influence of a prescription drug or driving while intoxicated with alcohol, DUI charges are serious. While they may be categorized in general as a traffic offense, a strong defense against such charges is critical to protecting your rights and your future.
If you or someone you love are facing DUI charges — whether it’s a first, second, or subsequent offense — reach out to a criminal defense attorney experienced in DWI law. You can contact the legal team at the Hernandez Law Firm, P.C. by calling 732-582-5076 to find out about our criminal defense services and who we 2023 can help.