New Jersey Drunken Driving Defense Update: Driver’s License Suspension Possible following DWI or DUI Conviction

It’s not surprising, with all the anti-drunken driving campaigns that target potentially impaired Garden State motorists every year, that New Jersey law enforcement agencies and our court system hold little love for drivers convicted of DWI or drug DUI. While use of illicit drugs, such as cocaine and marijuana, by some drivers is seen by police officers on a weekly basis, impaired driving as a result of alcohol consumption is likely much more common by the average citizen.

As New Jersey DWI defense lawyers, I and my staff of experienced drunken driving attorneys understand how quickly a driver can find him or herself on the receiving end of a DWI or DUI summons. When that day comes, it’s a good idea to consult with a qualified DWI attorney to better understand one’s options.

Naturally, it’s a given that being convicted of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated or otherwise impaired by alcohol, prescription drugs or other illegal substances (also know as controlled dangerous substances (CDS), will likely include some serious sanctions — namely heavy fines and other monetary penalties. But in addition to these financially costly penalties, the courts also have the ability, in many cases, to include a license suspension as part of the list of penalties the defendant will have to bear.

From the standpoint of fees, in general, anyone who is convicted of drunken driving in New Jersey can face fines upward of $1,000 for a single instance and penalties (including surcharges to a driver’s insurance premiums) of possibly $4,000 to $5,000 or more over the course of three years. This includes numerous fees for the DWI Enforcement Fund, MVC Restoration Charge, potential out-patient counseling, Safe Neighborhood Fund, Violent Crime Compensation Board Fund, not to mention court costs.

We’ll add, at this point, that although having an experienced drunken driving defense lawyer at one’s side may not spell automatic acquittal or a not-guilty verdict, it could have a positive impact on any judgment handed down by the municipal court regarding a potential driver’s license suspension or revocation.

Looking at this possibility is one of the topics that a DWI defense attorney will naturally discuss with a potential client. This is especially important to understand before going into the courtroom on one’s own, since an individual convicted of – and even one who pleads guilty to — a DWI or drug DUI charge could, depending on the specific circumstances, be facing jail time as well as a license suspension, in addition to the usual heavy fines and future insurance surcharges.

When it comes to the question of license suspension or revocation, one should never underestimate the impact of a loss of driving privileges. When a motorist loses his or her driver’s license, for whatever period of time, he or she must either find alternate public transport or rely on family and friends to help them get to and from work or school, daily shopping or parenting chores and other necessary commuting activities. In fact, for anyone who has ever their driver’s license, he or she realizes very quickly that they need that license back, ASAP.

Critical to approaching DWI charges is whether or not this is a first-time, second or third/subsequent offense. A qualified DWI attorney will also need to ask the defendant if he or she has a previous breath test refusal on their record; similarly, the lawyer will likely ask their client if the arrest was specifically for drunken driving or refusal. The answer to this simple question can have a significantly bearing on the length of time one’s driver’s license may be suspended.

In general, if a driver accused of DWI had a blood-alcohol content (BAC) reading of between 0.08 and 0.10 percent (and this is a first-time offense) the maximum suspension one will be facing is three (3) months. Worse, with a BAC of over 0.10 percent and one will be facing from a seven-month to 12-month suspension. Second offenses up the ante considerably.

A two-time offender will be looking at a staggering 24-month maximum license suspension, while a three-time offender can face upward of 10 years loss of driving privileges. As can be assumed, when it comes to hanging on to one’s driver’s license it is advisable to seek the counsel of a DWI attorney. This is especially true when other factors, such as multiple drunken driving charges, complicate one’s DWI case and make for very serious penalties, fines and other punitive actions.