For anyone who believes that driving a motor vehicle in New Jersey after taking a drink or two can’t possibly have any long-term impact on one’s future, just look around sometime. Drinking and driving, while perhaps not as prevalent these days as in decades past, is still a significant and ongoing issue according to most safety advocates, local and state police, and the Garden State’s legislature. As long as traffic accidents, fatal or otherwise, can be tied to drunk driving, it is a near certainty that New Jersey’s police departments will continue to be vigilant for potential DWI or DUI offenders.
But getting back to the impacts that a drunken driving conviction can have, these can be much more than a simple fine, a few points or a period of license suspension. In fact, if you don’t believe that a drunk driving arrest (and subsequent guilty verdict) can affect your life, please consider that for many people it can and does — on a regular basis, we might add. As accomplished New Jersey civil and criminal trial attorneys, my colleagues and I know of numerous instances where a person’s livelihood or career has been adversely affected by a DWI or drug DUI conviction.
My law firm has a great deal of experience defending hard-working people from all around the Garden State; individuals who believed that they were unjustly accused — but also those who know that they can hardly afford the secondary effects of even a single drunk driving offense on their record. For many accused DWI-DUI offenders, the monetary costs of a drunken driving conviction can pale in comparison to the potential professional consequences down the line.
Even a first-time conviction has been known to damage not only an individual’s social and private life, but his or her career track as well. Aside from the financial impact that a DWI or drug DUI conviction can have on many individuals, some people have been known to lose their jobs over a single drunk driving conviction. In fact, successful careers have been negatively affected, and sometimes completely ruined, due to the fallout following a New Jersey drunk driving conviction.
We can’t help but think of this type of scenario when we read news articles such as the recent report regarding a Monroe Township municipal engineer who will see jail time following a guilty verdict. Based on reports, 55-year-old Ernest Feist of Middlesex County was sentenced to upward of five years in prison. He was arrested for DWI last year following a traffic wreck in which three other people were hurt when his car reportedly struck a couple other vehicles at very high speed. In addition to jail time, Mr. Feist was ordered by the court to pay more than $32,000 to two of the three victims.
The crash that preceded the former township engineer’s arrest and conviction took place on June 4, 2013. Police accident investigators believed that Mr. Feist’s Mercedes CLS was traveling more than 100mph when it collided with a Toyota SUV along a stretch of Hoffman Station Rd., which had a posted limit of 40mph. Police stated that the defendant had a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of just over 0.20 percent following the accident.
As a result of the wreck, the 57-year-old female driver in the Toyota was reportedly severely injured and subsequently airlifted to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, NJ, where doctors treated her injuries; apparently the woman is still under the care of the hospital as she continues to undergo medical treatments at that location more than a year after the crash.
The second victim, a 34-year-old man from Pennsylvania who was riding along with Mr. Feist’s vehicle, was transported to the Princeton University Medical Center in Plainsboro. According to police authorities, the third victim was a 31-year-old motorist from the Manalapan area. That individual was behind the wheel of a Mazda that was on the road behind the Toyota sport utility vehicle at the time of the collision.
Based on court records, sentencing took place in New Brunswick in mid-September after Mr. Feist reportedly pleaded guilty to three counts of assault by auto on June 5 this past summer. The defendant admitted that he was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the wreck.
Not only was the defendant ordered to pay restitution to the victims, as well as having to serve time in jail, he reportedly was obliged to resign any and all official positions, including his post as township engineer. Despite a record of “provided outstanding service as Monroe Township’s Engineer,” it is quite obvious that this individual’s tragic error in judgment has greatly affected his own life, not to mention the lives of several other people.
MONROE: Feist gets five years for DWI crash; CentralJersey.com; September 22, 2014