The DWI in New Jersey is quickly becoming the common man's/woman's initial brush with the court system. While a DWI in New Jersey is not a criminal offense (as it is in some other states) it nonetheless contains some criminal aspects such as handcuffs (sometimes), arrest and detention that make it appear as if the accused is being charged with a crime. There is also possible jail time associated with a DWI in New Jersey. While jail time is rarely if ever imposed on first time offenders unless some extraordinary circumstances accompany the DWI (for example an accident with injuries, accompanying criminal charges such as drugs or an extremely high blood alcohol reading) it must be noted that repeat offenders can and often do face jail time (there is mandatory jail time in New Jersey for third time offenders).
There are a handful of do's and don'ts that can help if you are facing a DWI in New Jersey.
Do's in NJ DWI Cases.
1. Remain calm and cooperate with the police officer fully. Make sure (preferably before you start driving on any given day) that you have your license, current registration and current insurance card with you and readily available when it is requested. Common entries in many DWI police reports, which are often used by the prosecution in proving a DWI, are the accused's nervousness, his/her belligerent or uncooperative attitude and his/her "fumbling" when producing credentials.
2. Many DWIs in New Jersey are now captured on video. Be conscious of this and act accordingly. Respond politely and with deference to the officer's questions and address the officer as "Officer", "Sir" or "Ma'am."
3. Make sure that when you are given field sobriety tests that you fully understand the instructionsbefore you begin the tests. Ask the officer to repeat the instructions and demonstrate the tests before taking them if you don't understand. The tests are difficult sometimes even for sober, well coordinated people. If you perform the tests improperly that will be used by the State to demonstrate that you could not follow "simple" instructions or that you failed the tests.
4. Advise the officer if you have any physical issues that would prevent you from properly performing the tests, ie. bad knee, bad ankle, bad back or some type of other physical issue. Remember you are likely on video so make this clear in a polite way.
5. Make sure that your shoes don't prevent you from performing the tests adequately (if you have heels mention this and ask if you can take them off before performing the tests). Also make sure that the surface you are performing the tests on is flat, free from debris and gravel and is not slippery or too wet to perform the tests. Remember, again, you may very well be on video so make a good record, ie. "Officer, I notice this surface is very slippery, this will make it difficult to perform the tests" or "Officer, this surface is not flat and there is a lot of debris on the ground, this will make it difficult to perform the tests."
Don'ts in NJ DWI Cases.
6. Don't refuse to take the Alcotest. Under New Jersey law, a refusal is a per se admission of being under the influence. In addition, the defenses to a DWI relevant to the procedures followed while administering the Alcotest (which are very specific and numerous) are eliminated if you refuse to take the Alcotest.
7. Don't make a statement. If the officer asks you how much you have had to drink or asks you if you are under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs, don't answer if in fact you have used alcohol and/or drugs. Rather, inform the officer that you want to comply with his requests and you will to the best of your ability. However, inform the officer in a respectful manner that you do not wish to make a statement of any kind.
8. Don't consent to a search of your vehicle. While a search of the vehicle doesn't always happen during the DWI stop, such a search may occur and the contents of your vehicle can and will be used to support the State's case against you. The police may search anyway (with or without your consent), if so, let them do their job, just don't consent to the search.
9. Don't try to talk your way out of this, just comply, be polite and cooperate.
10. After you have been released, if you have been charged with a DWI or other offenses, write everything down that you can remember about the incident, including the procedure followed by the police before, during and after the stop; where you were before you were stopped; what you were doing before the stop; and make note of any potential witnesses that may be helpful, including friends, the bartender or others who were with you before you were stopped.
Contact an experienced DWI Defense Lawyer.
A conviction for a DWI in New Jersey (and in many if not most states) is permanent. This means under New Jersey law a DWI (unlike some criminal offenses) cannot be expunged. At Brickfield & Donahue we don’t judge. We defend. If you have been charged with a DWI the experienced DWI attorneys at Brickfield & Donahue would welcome your inquiries. We have helped many people through the process and if you contact us immediately, an experienced DWI defense lawyer from our office will do their best to ensure that your case is handled properly and promptly. To contact a DWI defense attorney at Brickfield & Donahue, call (201) 488-7707 or send us an email.