by Peter Lederman, Esq.
If you are charged with DWI in New Jersey, it’s likely you are confused about what to do first and stressed about the ramifications for your license, your job and your family.
I’ve put together this list to help you navigate those first few uncertain days after your charge, to give you peace of mind, and to start you off in the right direction.
1. Take a deep breath
A DWI charge is a serious offense with ramifications for job, family and future opportunities. Take some time to regroup and talk with your family. Now is the time to have honest conversations about what events led to this charge.
2. Seek help
It’s possible that your charge was the result of one mistake and that it’s totally out of character for you. But it may also be an indicator of a bigger problem. Now is the time to take a hard look at your relationship with alcohol and how it’s affecting your life. I encourage all my clients to seek alcohol counseling and mental health services to get to the root of their troubles – so this doesn’t happen again.
3. Retain an attorney
New Jersey requires that DWI cases be resolved within 60 days of the issuance of the summons. Therefore, it’s essential that you seek legal services as soon as possible in order to insure that your case is properly prepared when called for trial. The sooner you act then, the better chance your attorney will have in providing the best defense possible. Click here for some tips on how to choose a NJ DWI lawyer who is right for you.
4. Educate yourself
Penalties for DWI in New Jersey are strict. If this is your first offense you are facing the possibility of losing your license for seven months. If this is your second offense that penalty goes up to two years loss of license. If this is your third offense, you know you may be sentenced to 180 days of jail time and loss of license for 10 years. You may not be aware of the fines for each of these offenses. Fines vary by the town that issued the ticket and can range from $600 – $850 for first offense, $850 – $1,300 second offense and $1,500 – $2,500 third offense, depending on your circumstance. You’re also responsible for court fees and fees for legal representation.
5. Gather evidence for your defense
As a citizen it’s your right to obtain copies of the police report and evidence against you, such as the police video. These should be made available to you by the police department in the municipality where you were charged within a few days. However, if you have an attorney, he or she will do this for you. It is important that you write down your recollection of the events right away and make note of any witnesses to the incident or accident. You should also obtain your hospital records if applicable. Your lawyer will go through these pieces with you to ensure that your rights as a citizen were not violated and the charges were properly brought. It’s possible, for instance, that the breath test was not administered according to procedure or that a blood test was taken illegally. It’s even possible that you were pulled over without probable cause. I have seen charges thrown out because police didn’t follow procedure. Your attorney should go over your unique case carefully and examine each piece of evidence.
As I said earlier, a DWI charge is serious, but it isn’t the end. With passionate, aggressive legal representation and commitment on your part to seek help, you can move beyond this charge to a healthy and productive life.