It is safe to say that the best way to avoid a DWI conviction is to avoid drinking if you will be driving and don't drive if you have been drinking. However, you probably know that your best plans to follow this advice may not always work out.
Nevertheless, understanding the consequences and long-term ramifications of a drunk driving conviction may increase your chances of avoiding such a mistake and impress on you the importance of seeking legal advice if you find yourself in such a situation. Before rushing to take a plea deal, ask yourself some important questions.
Is my BAC really .08 or higher?
You may be among those who think you should just take your punishment if you get arrested for driving with a blood alcohol concentration over the legal limit. However, there are good reasons to defend yourself, not the least of which is that your BAC reading may not be accurate, especially if police used your breath to take the measurement.
Breath tests are notoriously unreliable and may measure the alcohol that occurs naturally in your body, is an ingredient in food you may have eaten or comes from prescription medicines you may take. The difference of a fraction of a percentage point can determine if you are legally impaired.
Do I really understand the penalties?
Even a first-offense DWI in New Jersey can result in serious financial penalties. If convicted, you face the potential of owing thousands of dollars for these and other costs:
- A fine of up to $400
- A surcharge for the Drunk Driving Enforcement Fund
- Safe and Secure Community Program fee
- Intoxicated Driving Program fee
- The fee for your incarceration
- Insurance premium rate hike
- Thousands in insurance company surcharges for high-risk drivers
- The cost of reinstating your driver's license after your suspension
A DWI can also ruin your career. A conviction may mean the loss of your professional license or a violation of your employment contract. Even if this is not the case, you may find it difficult to get to work without your license, and you may place your job in jeopardy if you have to ask off for court appearances, community service or time in jail. If your job requires driving or the use of a company vehicle, you may face termination.
While these consequences may paint a bleak picture, the severity of DWI penalties works to deter you from drinking and driving. However, you do not have to face this difficult time alone. You have the right to legal representation and to obtain advice for the most appropriate course of action to take for the best possible outcome.