Being pulled over, arrested, and charged for driving while intoxicated (DWI) is not a small issue in New Jersey. A conviction for DWI can lead to serious penalties that can drastically impact your life for years to come. Even if you refuse to take a breathalyzer or blood test, you can face a license suspension that makes it difficult for you to get to your job.
Having a skilled DWI-defense attorney from Kim & Feliz, LLC can make a huge difference in the outcome of your case, as they can help you defend against the charge against you and protect your interests and future.
New Jersey's DWI Law and BAC Levels
The State of New Jersey prohibits driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of a drug or other chemical substance, or with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. N.J.S.A. 39:4-50. If your BAC is higher than 0.10%, the penalties you face if convicted of DWI are even higher.
Your BAC is determined by a breathalyzer or a blood test. These tests use either a sample of your breath or sample of your blood to analyze -- through chemical reactions -- the amount of alcohol in your body.
New Jersey BAC Levels for Underage Drivers
If you are under the age of 21, and therefore too young to legally drink alcohol, your legal limit is only 0.01% (minors cannot have any detectable amount in their system). This is part of New Jersey's Zero Tolerance law.
New Jersey's zero tolerance law makes the State's DWI laws – at least as it applies to minors – one of the toughest in the nation.
If you were underage and your BAC was between 0.01% and 0.08%, the penalties are:
- A license suspension of 30 to 90 days
- 15 to 30 days of community service
- Mandatory attendance at an alcohol and driving safety class.
Additionally, you could face charges for underage drinking even if you were not driving the car at the time of your arrest. This comes with the following penalties:
- Up to $500 in fines
- A driver's license suspension of up to six months.
If you are convicted for underage drinking and do not have a driver's license, this suspension begins when you receive one.
New Jersey BAC Levels for Commercial Drivers
Though the 0.08% BAC level is set for all adults, the legal BAC in New Jersey is lower if you have a commercial driver license (CDL) and are driving a commercial vehicle at the time of your arrest. In this circumstance, the legal BAC limit is 0.04%. The idea behind this more stringent BAC level is to keep commercial vehicles – which are often far heavier and more difficult to drive than normal passenger vehicles – under control and out of accidents.
Unlike other states, New Jersey's lower BAC level for commercial drivers only applies when they are behind the wheel of a commercial vehicle. Many other states hold CDL holders to a higher standard, even when they are driving their personal vehicle.
Penalties for a DWI in New Jersey
If you are over the age of 21 and are not a holder of a CDL, the penalties that you can face for DWI increase depending on whether you have been convicted of DWI in the past. These penalties include a license suspension, fines, and even jail time. If the offense was for a DWI where your BAC was between 0.08% and 0.10%, the potential penalties are:
Additionally, if you are charged with DWI and you were driving with someone under the age of 18 in the car at the time of your arrest, you can also face charges for a disorderly person offense. Conviction of this offense comes with an additional six months to your license suspension and a sentence of community service.
Finally, if you were in a school zone or school crossing when you were arrested, there will be penalty increased under Public Law 99, Chapter 185.
Penalties for Having a BAC Above 0.10%
The first DWI offense that involves a BAC at or above 0.10% carries enhanced penalties which include:
- A fine of between $300 and $500
- Up to 30 days of jail time
- Between seven months and one year of license suspension
- Additional alcohol rehabilitation time.
New Jersey's Implied Consent Law
In addition to DWI laws, New Jersey also has an implied consent law. This law states that you have silently given your consent to take a BAC test – like a breathalyzer or a blood test – whenever a police officer has probable cause to believe that you have been driving while intoxicated. Refusing to provide a breath or blood sample when a police officer has the appropriate probable cause can subject you to the following penalties:
Defenses to a DWI Charge
While the penalties for a DWI conviction can be steep, there are numerous ways that you can raise an effective defense against the charges. Some of the most common include:
- There was no probable cause for the traffic stop. Police cannot pull people over to the side of the road for no reason. They need to have probable cause to believe that a crime is being committed.
- Miscalibrated BAC tests. The machines that detect alcohol on your breath and in your blood need constant calibration. When police fail to calibrate them, they fall out of alignment and this leads to false positives.
- Improperly administered field sobriety tests. Police use a battery of field sobriety tests to detect the presence of alcohol in your system. These tests, however, are notoriously inaccurate and can be administered in ways that are designed to produce false positives.
DWI-Defense Attorneys in New Jersey
The DWI-defense attorneys at the law office of Kim & Feliz, LLC utilize these and numerous other defensive techniques to protect your rights and interests during a DWI case. With their help, you can rest assured that everything is being done on your behalf to protect your future against an accusation of drunk driving.