Being charged with drunken driving for the very first time is something most people never forget. Not only can such an event be personally and professionally embarrassing, but the costs associated with a conviction add up to thousands of dollars. It’s a fair bet to say that the majority of motorists who are found guilty and saddled with stiff fines and other penalties will try not to make the same mistake twice. Although it may not seem like a hard decision, the mistake that some people make following a DWI arrest is not talking with a qualified drunk driving defense attorney.
But as long-time DWI and drug DUI defense lawyers, my staff has seen frequent situations where individuals accused of drunken driving should have made the decision to retain an experienced attorney, but for one reason or another chose not to. Considering the potential fines, fees, assessments and other penalties, such as jail time, there is no logical reason why an accused drunk driver should not, at the very least, avail himself of a free consultation from a skilled attorney.
Naturally, there are circumstances where a drunken driving defendant will truly feel the need for professional representation in a court of law. Where jail time and harsher penalties are threatened, an accused motorist would only do himself a disservice to eschew a lawyer in favor of going it alone against a prosecuting attorney. The results of such ventures are rarely positive for the defendant.
Going it alone with a simple DWI summons following, for example, an arrest at a roadside sobriety checkpoint is one thing. But when facing a drunk driving charge tied to an injury-related traffic accident, or worse, a fatal roadway collision involving drug DUI or similar charges, this is where hiring an experienced DWI lawyer is not only a good idea, but is something that should not be left to chance.
Consider instances where a motorist is accused of a serious injury accident or a fatal crash while intoxicated by alcohol. Every so often we run across news articles that cover such tragic circumstances. We read one just a while back that showed how an unfortunate automobile accident can result in some serious charges for the allegedly responsible driver. In the news report we saw, a Passaic County man pleaded not guilty to hitting and killing one person, as well as injuring to other people.
According to police, 26-year-old Robert Santiago was charged in August with first-degree vehicular homicide coupled with DWI within 1,000 feet of a school. In addition, the man was also hit with a charge of second-degree death by motor vehicle, plus two counts of fourth-degree vehicular assault. Speaking on his client’s behalf, the defendant’s attorney pleaded not guilty to all charges.
The crash reportedly occurred at a little past 2am as the victim was getting into the rear seat of a car parked on Rutherford Blvd. Based on police reports, 47-year-old Milagros Correa had just left a party when she was allegedly hit by the accused man’s vehicle. Once police arrived and took Santiago into custody, a breathalyzer test showed the man’s blood-alcohol content (BAC) to be 0.20 percent, which is more than twice the legal limit in New Jersey.
Sadly, the victim died several hours later after being taken to St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center in Paterson, NJ. The two other victims who survived the crash, one of which was the deceased woman’s 11-year-old daughter, were treated and released not long after being admitted to the hospital.
In New Jersey, a first-degree vehicular homicide charge carries with it a prison sentence of up to 20 years, while second-degree vehicular homicide charge entail a 10-year maximum sentence. The two fourth-degree assault charges carry jail time of up to 18 months. The defendant case was reportedly referred to a grand jury for further action, while the man was held on $250,000 bail at the Passaic County Jail.
Alleged Clifton drunken driver pleads not guilty in fatal crash, NorthJersey.com, August 14, 2013