Does New Jersey Have A Blood Alcohol Content Level Threshold?
No, the only gradation we have is in connection with first offenses. Again, still traffic, not criminal. It affects two aspects of the sentence. One is the driving revocation period, and the other is the ignition interlock period. If you have a breath test result of less than a .10%, or if you go to trial and somehow get the reading out, and there is no reading, but the person still gets convicted based on observational evidence, then it is a three months revocation. If the reading is at .10% or higher, the revocation for the offender is no less than seven months, and no more than twelve months. If the blood alcohol or breath alcohol result is a .15% or higher, in addition to the revocation, there is a mandatory alcohol ignition interlock requirement between six months and a year beginning when the revocation ends.
In fact, if you read the statute, they require you to get the interlock while you are actually revoked, but again, the statute is poorly written. It is very ambiguous. Some judges do not require the interlock during the period of revocation, while others do. That is an issue that is going to ultimately have to be sorted out through appeals if the case ever presents itself. Because practically speaking nobody is enforcing the statute as it is written. That is the only time where breath alcohol and blood alcohol levels factor in. Otherwise, the only way it factors in is as an aggravating or mitigating factor. But that is within the general sentencing standards. There are no mandatory gradations like there is in Texas or other states. Some states have aggravated and super aggravated DWI and we do not have that.
It is either a DWI or it is not. Aggravating and mitigating simply applies to the range of punishments which frankly, the greatest range you see is in the context of first offenders. For second offender DUIs, you lose your license for a minimum of two years and a maximum of two years. Jail can be anywhere from two days to ninety days, two days mandatory. In almost all cases if a person makes a serious showing of rehabilitative efforts, the judge will generally sentence them to two days in jail, but convert that to something called the intoxicated driver resource center, which is not jail. It is confinement for forty-eight hours, but it is in a different setting than a jail setting, and it is exclusively reserved for people convicted of second offense DUIs.
For third offense DUIs, the fines are what they are. The joke is it is a minimum of one hundred and eighty days in jail and a maximum of six months. There is very little deviation whether you plead guilty or go to trial, and that is why for most of my DUI defendants if we do not get the right resolution, we are going to go to trial.
How Do You Determine Whether It Is Feasible To Plead Guilty Or Go To Trial In A DWI?
There are many more alternatives available when one is charged with a crime. The risk or reward analysis is a lot more complicated than it is for DWI. For DWI it is very simple. Either you give me a resolution that makes sense or we go to trial. Because if I lose after trial big time, my client is going to end up getting the same sentence as if they went in and pled guilty right away. Unfortunately I hate to say that most of the defendants that I see, not all, but most, I do not know if they are just too lazy or too afraid to go to trial, but there is way too many guilty pleas on DWIs in New Jersey as far as I am concerned with given the analysis of minimum and maximum sentences if you lose.
If you are going to hire a lawyer you do not want to have that lawyer holding your hand while you plead guilty, you can do that for free. Your choice in hiring a lawyer on a DUI in New Jersey is do you want to fight, or do you want to roll over? I can give you the R rated version of that analogy which I use for some clients. They are the more down to earth kind. They like the graphic off-color analogies. The bottom line is this, give us a deal or we go to trial. It is amazing because sometimes prosecutors will go out of their way to find reasons not to try a case, even though plea bargaining a DUI itself is not legal in New Jersey, prosecutors are still free to amend, downgrade, or even dismiss the charge if they can present on the record that there is a flaw in their case and they cannot prove it beyond a reasonable doubt.
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