Drunken Driving Defense Update: Beware the Catch-all Careless Driving Offense

For the average motorist, a conviction for even a first-offense DWI can represent a serious hit to one’s pocketbook. Here in the Garden State, drivers who have been charged with driving under the influence of alcohol can face fines upward of $500, depending on the defendant’s blood-alcohol concentration (BAC). Yet, these fines are hardly the worst penalties that an individual can experience if convicted for drunken driving; considering the substantial and long-term mandatory increases in one’s insurance premiums, the financial pain of a DWI or drug DUI guilty verdict can be extended for several years beyond any initial conviction.

Monetary penalties aside, there is always the possibility of jail time, which can be significant depending on the offense. While even a first-time drunk driving offender can face jail time — upward of 30 days — this undesirable penalty can often be avoided when choosing an experienced DWI defense lawyer to act as one’s legal representative. It is not uncommon, in such instances, for a convicted drunken driver to be ordered by the court to participate in a program at the Intoxicated Driver Resource Center (IDRC).

Convictions for second- and third-time offenses brings even more serious penalties, with fines upward of $1,000 and a required 30-day stint of community service. Following a conviction for a second offense, there is a mandatory period of incarceration ranging from two days to three months. It is important to note, however, that “incarceration” does not necessarily mean jail time here in the Garden State; a skilled DWI attorney can sometimes persuade the court to substitute a stay at the IDRC in place of a jail term. Note that when personal injury or some other unique circumstance is connected with a DWI charge, jail time can often be unavoidable following a possible conviction.

All this being said, it is important to note that most people who are stopped for driving while intoxicated find they were observed committing some other kind of moving violation. In fact, because a police officer is required by law to have a valid reason for stopping a driver (not just a hunch that the motorist is inebriated or otherwise impaired), many drivers find they have been accused of the vague offense of reckless or careless driving, in addition to the DWI or drug DUI charge.

As New Jersey drunken driving defense lawyers, my legal team is very familiar with the numerous ways in which law enforcement officers find cause for a traffic stop. In our experience, a careless driving ticket is one of the more common “catch-all” summonses that motorists are hit with on a regular basis.

Whether a person is accused of reckless or careless driving in connection with a DWI offense, this may turn out to be advantageous in terms of a drunken driving defense. A qualified DWI-DUI defense attorney can be of great assistance when fighting a reckless or careless driving charge, which may then lead to a possible dismissal of the drunk driving charge without the need to step into a courtroom. Of course, one needs to consult with a skilled legal expert in advance to know whether or not one’s particular situation is suitable for such an approach.