The big game! You’re at a huge party with tons of friends and more wings and pizza and chips and guacamole than you’ve ever eaten. Oh, and a keg. To top it off, your team won! Driving home, you think about what a great memory today will be. And then it happens. A siren wails as the flashing lights of the police cruiser behind you quickly fill your rearview mirror.
The heart-stopping experience of being charged with a DUI is something no one wants. If it happens to you, here is what to do (and not do) after a DUI offense in Passaic County.
1. Do not refuse a chemical breath test.
New Jersey is what is referred to as an “implied consent state”. This simply means that if you drive in this state you are considered to have given your implied consent to a chemical test to determine your blood alcohol content (BAC) level if you are suspected of driving under the influence/driving while intoxicated (DWI).
Note: New Jersey does not distinguish between a DUI and a DWI.
The penalties for refusing a chemical test are steep:
- For a first offense you will be fined between $300 and $500. You will also be required to participate in an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center (IDRC) program and can expect a suspension of your drivers’ license for 7 months to 1 year.
- A second offense for refusal to submit to a chemical test penalties include a license suspension for 2 years, fines ranging from $500 to $1000 and a minimum of 12 months in an IDRC program.
- For a third offense of refusing to take a chemical sobriety test when under suspicion of driving under the influence, you will face a minimum of 12 IDRC hours. In addition you will be fined between $600 and $1000. Most significantly, your license will be suspended for 10 years.
2. What you need to do is obtain legal representation as quickly as possible.
Not just any attorney will do however. This is not a matter for a general practitioner. Drunk driving laws are complicated.
For example, did you know that if you are under 21 when charged you will be convicted of a DUI offense if your BAC is as low as .02%? Although this may not constitute zero-tolerance, it is certainly close enough.
Another drunk driving law in this state that most people don’t know is that drivers of commercial vehicles with a BAC of at least .04% at the time of arrest are deemed to be guilty of driving under the influence.
Here are just some of the possible outcomes if you are convicted of a DUI offense, depending on how many offenses you have had:
- Up to 30 days in jail for a first offense, up to 90 days for a second and as many as 180 days in jail for a third .
- Fines ranging from $250 to $1000.
- A suspension of your driver’s license for a period ranging from 3 months to 10 years.
Stronger penalties will apply if your drunk driving incident included a charge of aggravating circumstances such as a DUI in a school zone or at a school crossing. For example, the suspension of your license resulting from this offense can range from 12 months to 20 years.
3. Shop carefully, choose wisely.
If you are charged with a DUI offense in Passaic County, you will want to retain the services of an attorney experienced in matters involving drunk driving offenses. Your lawyer should have the ability to analyze the facts surrounding your arrest and identify both the strengths and weaknesses of your eventual defense to the charges filed against you.
He or she should be able to help you quickly decide what strategy to employ. Should you pursue dismissal of the charges, a plea bargain for a lesser charge, or acquittal at trial?
Choosing the attorney that is right for your case is a critical decision. To ensure you make the best choice, you should consider the following factors:
Years of Practice
As with any profession, the more time spent practicing law the greater the proficiency one should obtain. An attorney who has worked for many years in the legal arena has likely developed and fine-tuned numerous skills necessary to become successful.
These include communication, the ability to separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak, and a keen understanding of the law, both in how it works and how to make it work for clients.
Years Handling DUI Cases
Specialization matters. You see a family doctor for general health issues but you certainly wouldn’t see that physician to treat a serious illness or injury. The risk is too great.
The same idea applies to hiring an attorney to defend you against a drunk driving charge in Passaic County. General practitioners may possess the intelligence to handle your case but do they have the professional experience and knowledge? If your lawyer does not, can you afford the possible result?
The Attorney’s Opinion of Your Case
Does he or she think charges can be dismissed? Is a plea bargain available? Is your case likely to go to trial? If so, what are the chances of a ruling in your favor? What are the weaknesses in your defense? Can those weaknesses be overcome?
Not only will the answers to these questions help you gauge the knowledge and expertise of a lawyer, they will help you set and manage your own expectations.
Your Comfort Level
There is nothing comforting about dealing with a DUI offense. You have too much to lose. The last thing you need, therefore, is to be uncomfortable with your defense attorney (or your attorney with you).
Trust is the foundation of the attorney-client relationship. Without it, there can be no effective communication. In the absence of complete and honest communication between the two of you, you will be unable to provide your lawyer what is needed and your lawyer will be unable to provide you with the best representation possible.
Finding the best DUI attorney in Passaic County means the one who is best for your situation. The lawyers at Fontanella, Benevento, Gallucci & Smith bring the years of experience and knowledge that you need.