Howes & Howes, Attorneys at Law

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Drunk Driving:  Frequently Asked Questions

Our attorneys have extensive experience in the New Jersey municipal courts as private defense counsel.  Additionally, our attorneys have been appointed as municipal prosecutor and as municipal court judge.  The following are the most frequently asked questions related to drunk driving.

1.  If an officer stops me on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, do I have to take the breath test?

Yes.  When you drive in New Jersey, you are required to take a breathalyzer test if a police officer has a reasonable and articulable suspicion that you are driving while intoxicated.  The officer’s suspicions must be based on his or her observations of erratic driving, the smell of alcohol on your breath, the presence of alcohol in the car or your own admission.  You do have the right to request a blood test if you believe that you are not intoxicated.

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2.  How many breath samples must I give?

You are required to give at least two breath samples.  You must blow sufficiently into the machine in order to produce a valid reading.  Failure to give an adequate breath sample could result in a violation for refusing to take the breathalyzer test.

3.  What are the penalties for drunk driving?

Under the new drunk driving, you are guilty if you have a valid breath test result of .08 BAC or higher.

For the first offense:  if the person’s blood alcohol concentration is 0.08% or higher but less than 0.10%, a fine of not less than $250 nor more than $400; a period of detainment of between 12 and 48 hours in the Intoxicated Driver Resource Center; a three(3) month driver’s license suspension; and, up to 30 days in jail.

if the person’s blood alcohol concentration is 0.10% or higher, a fine of not less than $300 nor more than $500; and a period of detainment of between 12 and 48 hours in the Intoxicated Driver Resource Center; a driver’s license suspension of between seven(7) and twelve(12) months; and up to thirty (30) days in jail.

For the second offense:  a fine of between $500.00 and $1,000.00; thirty (30) days community service; a minimum of two (2) and a maximum of ninety (90) days in jail; two years drivers license suspension; and you will be required to install an ignition interlock device in your car OR you will your registration certificate and registration plates revoked for two years.

For the third offense:  a fine of $1,000.00; not less than 180 days in a county jail or workhouse, except that the court may lower such term for each day, not exceeding 90 days, served participating in a drug or alcohol inpatient rehabilitation program approved by the Intoxicated Driver Resource Center; ten (10) year drivers license suspension; in addition, you will be required to install an ignition interlock device OR you will have your registration certificate and registration plates revoked for 10 years.

4.  What does the prosecutor need to prove in order to convict me of drunk driving?
The prosecutor has the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.  They need to prove that you were operating a motor vehicle after you had consumed and alcholic beverage, adn that at the time of driving, the alcohol consumption had an adverse effect on you ability to operate a motor vehicle.  If your Blood Alcohol Content is .08 or higher and you cannot contest the breath test procedures, then you will be automaticall convicted.

5.  What defenses are available?

Our attorneys have handled hundreds of drunk driving cases both as prosecutors and as defense counsel.  They can recognize when you have a defense.  Valid defenses arise where there is a functional problem with the breat testing device or where the police did not operate the device properly.  Those defenses require the testimony of a scientific expert on your behalf.  Valid defenses also arise when the police lacked a reasonable and articulable suspicion to stop the motor vehicle, or lacked probable cause to arrest.  That defense is raised in a motion to suppress evidence.

6.  Can I get a temporary driver’s license?

Yes.  If the court suspends your license, it can grant you a temporary license for the approximate length of time that it will take for you to drive home.

7.  Can I get a conditional license?

No.  There are no conditional licenses in New Jersey.  You can not drive until your license is reinstated.  If you are convicted of driving while your license is suspended for drunk driving, the penalties are very harsh.

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