The Luck of the Irish? Not So Likely if You Got a DWI!
- Dan T. Matrafajlo
- Sat Mar 2018
If you’re like many people, you’re happy to invoke the luck of the Irish at least one day of the year. After all, St. Patrick’s Day is a fun day in New Jersey filled with green costumes, green beer, shamrocks, parades, music, shepherd’s pie, corned beef and cabbage, and other alcoholic beverages. Unfortunately, these celebrations also result in a number of DWI tickets.
Overall, a festive day and night of partying open you up to assorted consequences. At the very least you could be looking at a suspended license, steep fines, and possible jail time. Worse, there’s the possibility that you might cause a car accident, resulting in injuries, and fatalities.
In a best-case scenario, you know that it would be wise not to get behind the wheel after drinking anytime. However, alcohol does release inhibitions. It could be that you decided to count on the luck of the Irish to get you home after partying. Therefore, you didn’t plan ahead for an alternate means of getting back. Instead, after a night of heavy drinking, you muster up your liquid courage and opt to get behind the wheel and challenge New Jersey’s DWI sobriety checkpoints.
As it turns out, luck was not on your side this night. It doesn’t end well for you when a police officer at a DWI checkpoint suspects you have been drinking and asks you to pull your car over to the shoulder. During your conversation with the police officer, you slur your speech, requests that you step out of the car, and then perform field sobriety tests.
The nightmare continues. When asked to blow into a breathalyzer machine, your blood alcohol content is over the .08% blood alcohol concentration (BAC) legal limit for driving while impaired. Not only are you cited with a DWI, but you have to find a way home. In retrospect, you wish you had done that in the first place.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that drunk driving killed 30 people on St. Patrick’s Day in 2015. NHTSA data also shows that during the 2016 St. Patrick’s Day holiday period, almost two-fifths (39 percent) of all motor vehicle crash fatalities involved drunk drivers. The statistics support the reasons why the police are on high alert during this particular day.
DWI penalties in New Jersey and Your Legal Rights
First, the good news. Drunk driving laws start at NJSA 49:4-50. You might be surprised that driving while under the influence on its own is a traffic offense in New Jersey. However, the fact that it isn’t criminal doesn’t mean you can’t wind up in jail. Most people find this a strange part of the law.
With the exception of minor drivers, .08 percent blood alcohol concentration is considered the legal limit. However, for underage drivers who have even a small bit of alcohol in their system, the law is even more stringent. You may want to take a look at this article for more information.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, New Jersey is unique in relegating DWI as a traffic offense. New York is the only other state that gives first and second offenders some leeway. However, by your third DWI charge in New York, you face a misdemeanor on your record. In New Jersey, your conviction won’t show up on your rap sheet, but it will appear anytime someone requests your driver’s abstract.
The penalties for drunk driving are disconcerting. For example, consider the following for a first offense DWI conviction for drivers over 21:
- Incarceration in the county jail for up to 30 days in jail
- Fines between $250 to $500
- License suspension from three months to one year
For a second offense, you can get up to 90 days in jail, a fine between $500 to $1,000, and a license suspension of two years. A third or greater offense can get you up to 180 days in jail.
Plus, there are several surcharges involved, like a $100 fine to support the Alcohol Education and Rehabilitation Fund. Additionally, you face assessment of points and penalties from the DMV that will affect your car insurance premiums.
In a New Jersey DWI case, there is no right to a jury trial. Instead, a judge will decide your trial. Also, there is no plea bargain option. However, an experienced DWI lawyer can challenge testing results and the circumstances of your arrest.
The DWI laws in New Jersey are very complicated. A DWI conviction will impact your driving record, as well as chances at future employment opportunities. If you have been charged with a DWI, please call the Law Offices of Beninato & Matrafaljo to see how we can assist you. We have the experience and resources to fight the DWI charges against you.