The DUI and DWI Process: After You’re Arrested or Charged
After the police conclude their business you will typically be released to a friend or relative who generally agrees to accept responsibility for you for the first 24 hours. The arresting officer will place a date on the ticket notifying you when to appear. This is usually within one (1) week of your DUI/DWI arrest. If you retain an attorney, you may not have to appear and the court will schedule your matter for another appearance three (3) to four (4) weeks later.
During that time, your attorney will handle all communications with the police on your behalf. The lawyer will obtain discovery (documentation) from the State, which includes the police reports, Alcotest (breath test) records, statements, MVR (dashboard video), forensic analysis documents, certifications, audio and video files, probable cause statements and all charging documents. Additionally, your attorney may retain expert witnesses on your behalf to provide expert reports to offer in your defense. Often the discovery is initially incomplete and your attorney will need to press the issue. This is why an experienced attorney who understands New Jerseys DUI/DWI laws is essential from the very beginning.
Once the discovery is complete your attorney will evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the State’s proofs, which may include probable cause for the motor vehicle stop, failing to comply with Alcotest and breath test procedures and/or missing evidence. You will decide if you wish to plead guilty or go to trial. Unfortunately, there is no plea bargaining drunk driving or refusal to submit to a blood, breath, or urine test. In order to prevail against a DUI/DWI charge, you must show the State the weaknesses make it unlikely they will prevail.
If you elect to go to trial, your case will be presented before a municipal court judge. New Jersey does not permit jury trials for DUI/DWI offenses. The State will present witnesses and you, through your attorney, will attempt to undermine the State’s case. If you are successful, the charge(s) will be dismissed.
If you plead guilty or are found guilty, the court will impose fines, immediately suspend your license and potentially put you in jail. If sentenced to jail, it is not uncommon for your sentence to begin immediately. The consequences of a DUI/DWI in New Jersey may vary so you should ask your attorney to explain all possible outcomes prior to your court appearance.
If you choose to appeal a DUI/DWI conviction, the appeal is taken to the Superior Court in the County where the municipality is located. For example, if you were arrested in Mount Holly the Superior Court of Burlington County would hear your appeal. The court will decide the case anew based upon the facts and evidence presented in the municipal court. No new testimony or evidence is permitted during an appeal proceeding.