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Former State Prosecutor and Criminal Trial Attorney

Former State Prosecutor

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Experienced DWI Lawyer Provides Answers to New Jersey DWI Frequently Asked Questions


If you have been charged with a DUI in the State of New Jersey, you face significant penalties. That’s why it is imperative that you contact a knowledgeable DUI defense lawyer at your earliest convenience. Get the facts about New Jersey DWI violations and penalties from a former prosecutor who now represents clients charged with drunk driving in Atlantic and Cape May counties and throughout South Jersey.

John Tumelty, founding partner of the Law Offices of John W. Tumelty, is an experienced Atlantic City DWI defense lawyer who understands that a DWI charge can happen to anyone. Mr. Tumelty has successfully defended countless clients facing DWI charges and he can protect your interests and rights, too.

What Are Some of the Most Frequently Asked Questions About NJ DWI Violations and Penalties?

Q: What is the legal limit for blood alcohol content in New Jersey?

A: NJ law dictates that a person’s blood alcohol content (BAC) cannot exceed .08 percent while driving.

Q: Should I refuse the field sobriety test?

A: Yes. You are not required to perform field sobriety tests during a DWI investigation. These tests are highly subjective and typically produce incriminating evidence.

Q: Do I have to submit to blood & urine testing?

A: No. You are not required to provide a blood or urine sample for a DWI investigation for alcohol or drugs. Police are required to obtain a search warrant for a blood sample which must be based on probable cause.

Q: Should I refuse to submit to a breath test?

A: No. The breath test is mandatory, which means that refusal will result in breath test refusal charges that are very difficult to challenge in court. If you are convicted of refusal, you will almost certainly lose your driver’s license.

Q: What is an Alcotest?

A: The Alcotest, sometimes called a Breathalyzer, is the device used by all law enforcement in New Jersey to determine a driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC).

Q: Can I represent myself at my own DWI trial?

A: It is possible to represent yourself in court, but this is not advisable. An experienced DWI defense lawyer will know how to attack the prosecution’s case and challenge the evidence against you in order to minimize the likelihood of conviction.

Q: Is DWI a criminal violation?

A: No. DWI is not a criminal offense in New Jersey. However, a DWI conviction can still result in significant penalties, including jail time and loss of your driver’s license.

Q: What are the sentences for a DWI conviction in New Jersey?

A: The penalties for a DWI conviction vary, depending upon the number of prior offenses.
• For a first offense, you could be sentenced to 30 days in county jail and lose your license for up to one year.
• A second offense can result in a jail sentence of 90 days and loss of license for two years.
• A third offense is punishable by up to 180 days in jail and loss of your driver’s license for 10 years.
• Additionally, if your blood alcohol content (BAC) is higher than .10 percent, you face enhanced penalties regardless of the number of prior offenses.

Q: Is it possible to avoid jail time if I am convicted of a DWI?

A: Yes. With the assistance of an experienced DUI attorney, you are likely to enhance your chances of getting the charges dismissed or downgraded.

Q: Did the police have a right to stop my car?

A: Maybe. The police must have reasonable suspicion in order to initiate a traffic stop. If the police officer did not have a legal right to pull over your vehicle, any evidence they obtained after the fact may be inadmissible in court.

Q: What are the financial costs of a DWI conviction in New Jersey?

A: If you are convicted of drunk driving, you face a host of fines, fees, and surcharges, ranging from $3,700 to $6,100. The total amount varies, depending upon the number of prior DWI convictions on your record.

Q: Will I lose my auto insurance?

A: You could lose your insurance coverage if your insurance provider determines that you are a high-risk driver. At a minimum, your insurance premium costs are likely to rise dramatically.

Q: If my driver’s license is suspended for a DWI violation, can I get a hardship/provisional driver’s license?

A: No. Once your license is suspended for a DWI, you are not able to drive legally in the state until your license is fully restored.

Q: Will I be required to install an Ignition Interlock Device?

A: The ignition interlock penalty is not required for a first offender unless your blood alcohol level is a .15 percent or higher. The interlock is mandatory for all second, third or subsequent offenses.

Q: If I have an out-of-state DUI conviction, will it count in New Jersey as a prior offense?

A: New Jersey has interstate agreements with other states. This means that licensed NJ drivers are required to abide by NJ driving laws and can have their NJ license suspended if they are convicted of a DUI in a different state.

Q: What are the penalties for a commercial driver DWI?

A: Commercially licensed drivers in New Jersey are held to a higher standard than other drivers and face enhanced penalties for drunk driving violations.

Q: Can an expert witness help my defense?

A: Yes. An expert witness can potentially evaluate the evidence in your case and provide forensic analysis that counters the prosecution’s theories.

Q: What are the penalties for a DWI offense in New Jersey?

A: The penalties for a DWI offense in NJ vary, depending on whether you have any prior DWI convictions within the last 10 years. The penalties may include jail time, fines, and suspension of your driver’s license.

Q: How likely am I to get jail time for a DWI offense in New Jersey?

A: In most cases, a first-time offender will not get jail time. Judges do have the discretion to sentence a first-time DWI offender to up to 30 days in the local county jail, but they rarely do this.

Q: Do I have to take a breath test if asked to do so by police?

A: When you drive a car, truck, motorcycle, or any other type of motor vehicle in New Jersey, you automatically consent to breath testing. This means that you will have to submit to a breath test when a police officer asks you to do so.

Q: What’s the difference between a DWI and a DUI?

A: Driving While Intoxicated is known as a DWI in New Jersey, while Driving Under the Influence is known as a DUI in New Jersey. In most instances, the two terms are used interchangeably. However, legally speaking, a DUI typically refers to a charge for driving while under the influence of drugs or narcotics.

Q: Can I appeal my DWI conviction?

A: If a mistake was made during your DWI trial, you can file an appeal and potentially get the sentence reduced. In the best-case scenario, you may even be able to get your conviction removed or overturned.

Q: What happens if I’m convicted of drunk driving in another state?

A: New Jersey motorists are required to obey NJ traffic laws – even when they are operating a motor vehicle in another state. This means that a New Jersey resident who is convicted of drunk driving in New York or Pennsylvania, for instance, will still face license suspension and other penalties in New Jersey.

Contact a Knowledgeable DUI Defense Lawyer with Offices in South Jersey

John W. Tumelty is a former prosecutor and current criminal and DWI defense attorney with 30 years of experience handling DWI cases. Mr. Tumelty has represented countless clients in DWI matters throughout South Jersey, so he understands the ramifications of a conviction and knows how to challenge your charges in court. Call or email him today to schedule a free consultation at one of his offices in Somers Point and Marmora.

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