When you receive a DWI in the state of New Jersey, you don’t get a felony or a misdemeanor on your record. Instead, you get a traffic offense. This is quite different from the way other states handle DUIs, and it changes the way the court treats your case. By making DUIs traffic violations, the court completely changes the process. Find out how this can affect your case.
New Jersey Traffic Violations
In other states of the US, a DUI conviction goes on your record as either a felony or a misdemeanor. But in New Jersey, it’s a traffic offense. When a court handles traffic violations, there are no juries. Instead, judges hear the cases. You could find yourself standing in front of one judge, and not a whole jury.
As a traffic violation, a DWI is not a criminal act. It is a serious violation but still does not classify as a criminal charge. This means that the proceedings and the penalties for DUis are very different in the state. However, traffic violations can have severe penalties. Because a DWI is a serious offense, the penalties are more severe than most other traffic violations. Many people consider DWIs in New Jersey to be quasi-criminal offenses. Although it’s not quite criminal, the penalties are harsh.
In fact, the penalties tend to be very similar to the penalties you find in other states. A judge could sentence you to jail time and could issue a steep fine. It’s also likely that he will suspend your license. Here’s a closer look at the penalties for a DWI in New Jersey for a first-time offender:
-as many as 30 days in jail
-Between $250 and $500 in fines
-License suspension of between three months and one year
If you have more than one offense, the consequences are worse. Here are the consequences for the second offense:
-as many as 90 days in jail
-Between $500 and $1000 in fines
-Up to two years of license suspension
Clearly, DWIs are taken seriously in New Jersey. Although the crime might not go to criminal court, it still can have a dramatic effect on your life.
One of the benefits of a DWI as a traffic offense is that you get the same constitutional protection as any other criminal or non-criminal offense. You get the right to a fair trial and the right to a lawyer. Although it might not seem like much, it’s a big deal. It means that you have a chance to fight the charges and come out without a conviction.
Another benefit of being a traffic offense is the fact that you only have to face a judge. When you go up against a jury, you can’t predict how they will react. However, a judge is more predictable. If you choose a lawyer who is familiar with local judges, he can tell you how a judge usually acts. You may be able to get a better idea of the outcome of your case.
While there are many good things about DWIs as traffic violations, there are a few drawbacks. For example, a DWI is not open to expungement. It remains on your record no matter how clean your driving record remains. If you receive a DWI charge within five or ten years from your original violation, you face no added penalties. However. If you get a DWI sooner, your prior conviction can get you a harsher sentence.
When your DUI is a criminal charge, you may be eligible for expungement. After your penalty is complete, you need to have a clean record for a certain amount of time. Then, you may be able to seek expungement. If you get another DUI after a successful expungement, it counts as a first-time offense. In New Jersey, this isn’t an option. Your DUI will always be on your record.
Although standing in front of a judge and no one else can be a good thing, it can also hurt you. If you end up with a judge who takes a particularly strong stance against DWIs, you may be in trouble. However, if you had a jury trial, the jury can be more unpredictable. There may be people on the jury who believe in a less strict stance against driving while intoxicated.
Handling DWIs in New Jersey
Despite New Jersey’s unique take on DWIs, the way that you should handle them remains the same. You need the help of a good lawyer to get results. Without it, you could end up facing the maximum penalties for your offense. A great DUI lawyer knows how to handle New Jersey’s unique situation. He may be able to get you a great outcome with minimal or no consequences.
Representing someone in front of a judge is very different from doing so in front of a jury. Be sure to look for a lawyer who has specific experience handling New Jersey DWIs.