Why You Need a Lawyer to Fight a New Jersey DWI
A driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI) charge carries with it potential jail time, license suspension and fines, not to mention the effect it can have on your social life, career and overall reputation.
Many people think hiring a lawyer following a DUI/DWI arrest is costly and unnecessary, however, it is just the opposite. Skilled DUI lawyers work hard to minimize your penalties, generally saving you money overall. And, driving under the influence cases often raise complex issues that are best addressed by an experienced New Jersey DUI attorney dedicated to representing clients in DUI/DWI matters in order to obtain positive results.
Other compelling reasons for hiring an attorney to guide you through your DUI/DWI case include:
Plea bargains in DUI/DWI cases are illegal in New Jersey
New Jersey law does not allow plea bargains in a DUI/DWI case, therefore, the only way to dismiss or reduce charges is if the prosecutor certifies they are legally unable to prove that the defendant was driving drunk. This requires a technicality in the legal case, one that a qualified New Jersey DUI lawyer is best suited to expose. Although the law does not permit plea bargains, judges may adjust the penalties imposed for a conviction, therefore, it’s possible a skilled DUI attorney can persuade the prosecutor to recommend the lowest possible punishment.
DUI/DWI cases often involve complex constitutional issues
A DUI/DWI case involves constitutional issues stemming from the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and its guarantee of freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures in criminal matters, including in DUI and DWI stops. Courts enforce this right by excluding or suppressing any evidence obtained from an illegal search and seizure.
In the DUI/DWI context, constitutional issues most often arise with respect to:
- Illegal stops. Outside of a DUI checkpoint, police must have a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity — e.g., speeding, erratic driving or other traffic violation — to justify pulling over a driver. Without evidence of reasonable suspicion, the stop is illegal and the prosecutor may not use any evidence acquired.
- Illegal searches, seizures and arrests. Police also must have sufficient reason, or probable cause, that a driver committed a crime before they can search a person or a vehicle, seize evidence and arrest a driver. Without probable cause, a prosecutor may not use any evidence collected during that search, including the results of field sobriety and breathalyzer tests.
Reasonable suspicion and probable causes are vague, subjective terms that are based on a police officer’s observations and how they relay that information in court. As a result, determining whether police performed an illegal stop, search and seizure is not a straightforward exercise and is best left to a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney.
Examining evidence and creating a viable defense strategy
Experienced New Jersey DUI attorneys understand the legal and scientific process and procedures for gathering evidence and using it to convict a driver of driving under the influence. More importantly, they know how to use any errors or deviations from the processes and procedures to defend against DUI/DWI charges, including:
- Field sobriety tests. A variety of factors outside of intoxication can affect a driver’s performance on a field sobriety test (FSTs), including illness, fatigue, weight issues, etc.
- Breathalyzers Poorly maintained equipment, improper administration of the test, or an equipment malfunction can lead to erroneous blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels, as can many over-the-counter products and bodily substances that mimic alcohol. Even energy and vitamin beverages have been linked to false BAC readings.
- Blood tests. Blood tests can report a false BAC level if unqualified or inexperienced lab technicians handle specimens, the testing equipment is old or poorly maintained, or there are questions regarding the blood sample’s chain of custody.
Going to court can be confusing for those unfamiliar with the many rules and procedures for filing paperwork, presenting evidence, speaking to a judge, etc. An experienced New Jersey DUI attorney understands how the system works, has connections with experts, prosecutors and judges, knows what rules and procedures police must follow before, during and after an arrest, as well as the most effective way to challenge an officer’s performance and credibility.