How Can I Fight a DUI Charge?

If you are charged with driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) in New Jersey, you are facing severe penalties. Also, you are probably feeling anxious or overwhelmed. However, it is possible in some cases to overcome the state’s evidence. 

Law enforcement officers make mistakes. If any part of your arrest was mishandled or your alcohol tests were inaccurate, your case could be dismissed. You have rights under the law. It is the lawyer’s job to ensure your rights were protected during and after your stop and arrest. 

It is essential to seek legal representation if you are fighting a DUI charge. A lawyer experienced in criminal defense will ensure you are treated fairly under the law and present your case in a way that influences the prosecution to reduce or dismiss the charges. 

New Jersey DUI Laws 

If you drive in New Jersey and consume alcoholic beverages on occasion, it is important to understand DUI laws and penalties. 

In New Jersey, an individual is guilty of drunk driving if they operate a motor vehicle when the amount of alcohol in their blood, the blood alcohol concentration (BAC), is 0.08 percent or higher. In some circumstances, a driver can be charged with a lower BAC if their physical or cognitive ability to drive is somehow impaired by alcohol or drugs.

Here is an overview of the penalties for DUI in New Jersey for someone with a BAC of 0.08 or higher, but lower than 0.10 percent: 

First offense 

Second offense 

  • Fines between $500 and $1,000 
  • Imprisonment for up to 90 days 
  • License suspension for up to two years 
  • Ignition interlock device for up to four years after license suspension  
  • Completion of IDRC participation requirements 
  • 30 days of community service 
  • Insurance surcharge for three years

Third offense 

  • Fines of $1,000 
  • Imprisonment for up to 180 days 
  • License suspension for eight years
  • Ignition interlock device for up to four years after license suspension  
  • Completion of IDRC participation requirements 
  • 30 days of community service 
  • Insurance surcharge for three years

It should be noted these penalties for DUI do not include those for extenuating circumstances. There may be additional fines and penalties if you are underage, driving on a suspended license after a DUI, refuse a breath test, or injure someone while impaired. 

Can I Refuse a Breathalyzer? 

When you obtain a driver’s license in the state of New Jersey, you give implied consent to submit to chemical tests. In other words, you agree to be screened for alcohol or drugs in exchange for the privilege of driving. These screenings may include breath, blood, or urine samples. 

You can be charged for refusing to submit to a chemical test. Whether you do not respond to the request, provide an ambiguous response, or blatantly say no, all are considered refusals. Because a breathalyzer test is not a requirement for a DUI charge, you can still be convicted without it. 

A conviction for refusing to submit to a breathalyzer brings penalties similar to those of a DUI, including fines, insurance surcharges, and a suspended license. 

Drivers should know that much like Miranda Rights, police officers are required to read defendants a list of rights regarding chemical tests. If they do not, the results may be inadmissible in court. 

Possible Defenses for a DUI 

There are many reasons why a DUI charge may not stick or be considered lawful. Here are some possible defenses related to a drunk driving charge: 

Show you were not driving. In many states, a DUI charge applies only if the individual is actually driving the vehicle. If you were safely pulled over, and your car was off and the keys were not in the ignition, you likely have a good defense. Witness testimony, bodycam footage, and cell phone records help prove you were not driving and had no intention of driving when you were arrested. 

Challenge chemical results. Alcohol and drug test results can be flawed. If they are administered improperly or interpreted incorrectly, you may be charged for a BAC that is inaccurate. Some defendants argue that chemical test results do not reflect the actual levels of alcohol or drugs at the time of driving because certain substances remain in the body for longer periods after ingestion. 

Dispute the officer’s account of your behavior. Chemical tests are one way to assess impairment. Field sobriety tests and an officer’s observations are also used to determine if a driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, and balance issues are all common signs of impairment. 

However, these behaviors are not definitive proof, and they can also be related to other physical conditions. It really depends on the nature of the case. Although the defense can challenge an officer’s conclusions, it can be difficult to convince jurors to discount their testimony. 

Again, for this defense, accounts from others at the scene and bodycam footage can support the case for the defense. 

Show there was no probable cause for arrest. Typically, police need a legitimate reason to stop your vehicle and make an arrest for DUI. To make a traffic stop, they should have reason to believe someone in the vehicle has broken the law. The exception to this would be DUI checkpoints and roadblocks for the public. 

Really, any type of traffic violation constitutes reasonable cause under the law. However, if you were pulled over without a reason, the judge may rule any evidence collected during the stop is inadmissible. 

Show your Miranda rights were violated. Every citizen is entitled to Miranda rights. These are warnings that police issue before they detain and question a person. If the officer makes a stop and arrests someone for DUI without reading them their Miranda rights, anything the defendant says, and any evidence collected, may not be used in court against them. 

This can easily be proved with police bodycam or dash footage and accounts from others present during the arrest. 

What Should I Do if I Am Charged with a DUI? 

The first step after a DUI arrest should be a meeting with a reputable criminal defense lawyer. They will review all the evidence against you and determine if the officer had probable cause and followed proper protocols during your arrest. 

After consulting with you and carefully reviewing the facts of your case, your lawyer will build a defense and recommend the most practical legal course of action. The goal is to reduce or avoid DUI penalties and minimize the impact on your life. 

It is possible to fight a DUI charge with the right legal representation. Your defense team has a wealth of tools at their disposal to build your case, particularly if any laws were violated in the course of your arrest. 

Getting a DUI charge is not a pleasant experience, certainly, but you do not have to go through it alone. With a determined lawyer advocating for you, your outcome may be better than you anticipate. 

Morristown Criminal Defense Lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. Represent Clients Charged with DUI in New Jersey 

If you have been charged with a DUI, reach out to the Morristown criminal defense lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. We do not believe an isolated lapse in judgment should define you or your future. We will review every detail of your case to build a strong defense to possible reduce or avoid charges. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, call us at 908-575-9777 or contact us online. Located in Somerville and Morristown, New Jersey, we proudly serve clients in Somerset, Woodbridge, Morristown, Parsippany, Rockaway, Short Hills, Chatham, Randolph, Madison, and Morris Plains.