NJ DWI Defense Update: Avoid a First-time Conviction and Stave Off Second-Time Penalties

There are many reasons people come up with to avoid retaining a New Jersey drunk driving defense lawyer. Some believe they can effectively represent themselves during a DWI or drug DUI hearing, while others simple want to avoid paying anyone to speak for them regardless of how much experience the attorney may have. Quite frankly, here in the Garden State we have seen some very aggressive prosecutors who press hard for a drunk driving conviction.

As a former municipal prosecutor myself, I and my colleagues understand the strategies employed by the state’s attorneys. In addition to knowing the New Jersey DWI and drug DUI statutes, I and my staff also have decades of trial experience under our collective belts. It is unlikely that the average motorist who finds himself caught up in a drunk driving case has the experience and know-how to effective argue his case in front of a judge.

That said, we understand that many people may not have the money to retain a qualified DWI lawyer, but many people do not think things through to their logical end. One might be able to save on attorneys fees, but in the possible event that the defendant losses his case and ends up being convicted of DWI or DUI, the savings on legal fees can easily be offset by the potential monetary penalties totaling thousands of dollars in fines, court fees and mandatory increases in the convicted driver’s auto insurance premiums.

Surcharges alone can add up quickly depending on the charges listed in the case against a defendant. For those who are not familiar with DWI-related surcharges, they essentially fines assessed by New Jersey Surcharge Violation System (also known as NJSVS). Motorists who receive excessive points on their license or who have committed specific violations are liable for one or more of these surcharges, which we might add are in addition to any court fines or penalties assessed by a judge or magistrate. Here are a few examples:

— Operating a vehicle without a driver’s license — $100 — Driving on a suspended license — $250 — Driving an uninsured vehicle — $250 — First-time drunken driving conviction — $1,000 — Third-time DWI conviction — $1,500 (only within three years of the first conviction)
— Breath test refusal — $1,000
Any time a driver is found guilty or responsible for a traffic offense his or her driving record is reviewed by the state with the result that points will usually be added against his or her driver’s license. If a Garden State driver accumulates six or more points within a three-year period from her last posted violation, there is an automatic $150 surcharge assessed, PLUS $25 for each additional point received. It is also important to mention that failure to pay a surcharge assessed by the state can result in a lien being placed on one’s property until the surcharge is paid.

The bottom line is that deciding not to hire an experienced drunken driving defense attorney on financial grounds can be a false economy for many accused drunk drivers. Assuming that the police and the local prosecutor hold all of the cards is not a good reason to go it alone in a courtroom. No matter what the circumstances of your DWI arrest, most good DWI-DUI lawyers offer free consultations so that individuals can better assess their situation.

Although there are no guarantees in life, taking the time to consult with a qualified legal professional well-grounded in DWI and drug DUI law is one of the most important things that a person can do following an arrest for driving while intoxicated. A good New Jersey DWI defense lawyer can give one perspective and help you decide if a guilty plea is better than fighting the charge. Remember that there are always good reasons to challenge a New Jersey DWI charge, but you can’t win by pleading guilty right off the bat.