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What can I expect from a first-time DWI?

On Behalf of | Nov 20, 2021 | DWI/DUI |

Like most other states, New Jersey sees too many accidents, injuries and deaths related to drunk driving. It seems that, each year, authorities institute new campaigns or tighter laws to discourage drivers from getting behind the wheel after consuming alcoholic beverages. However, noble as these efforts may be, laws and police procedures often stack against you if you face DWI accusations, and this can place your future at risk. 

New Jersey’s drunk driving laws are among the strictest in the country. Even with no prior arrests or convictions for drunk driving, you may still face the possibility of severe penalties that have the potential to cause irreparable damage to your finances, your reputation, your relationships and your career.  

First-offense penalties 

Many factors, such as your size and health, can determine how alcohol affects you. However, if police determine you are driving with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher, they have good reason to place you under arrest. This starts a chain of events that can easily end with your conviction for driving while impaired. Even for a first offense, the court may impose any of the following penalties: 

  • Jail time as long as 30 days 
  • Fines reaching hundreds of dollars 
  • Suspension of your driver’s license 
  • Mandated installation of an ignition interlock at your own expense 
  • Twelve hours of substance abuse screening, counseling and education at your expense 
  • An annual vehicle surcharge of $1,000 for the next three years 
  • Additional fees that fund community safety programs 

These and other penalties may be even more severe if your BAC was higher than .08, if you had a child in the vehicle at the time of your arrest or if other aggravating factors exist. 

Why should I fight the charges? 

You probably want to get on with your life, and that is understandable. While it might be tempting to accept a plea to put the matter behind you, that is not always a wise idea. A plea is the same as a conviction, and it will certainly follow you for the foreseeable future. That includes jeopardizing your professional license, harming your future job searches and putting a strain on your finances.  

There are many reasons to fight the charges. For example, it is possible that officers did not properly administer or calibrate the device used to measure your BAC. Police may have subjectively evaluated your field sobriety tests or violated your rights in other ways. Having a strong defense is a smart way to protect your future.