DUI as a Quasi-Criminal Action
In New Jersey, a DUI or DWI is not considered a criminal offense. Rather, a DUI, alcohol or other drug-related offense punishable in court is called a quasi-criminal action. Nonetheless, DWI consequences can be severe — especially if your attorney is not experienced in handling these unique and complex cases.
Quasi-criminal offenses are “a class of offenses against the public ‘which have not been declared crimes, but wrongful against the general or local public which it is proper should be repressed or punished by forfeitures and penalties’” (State v. Laird, 25 N.J. 298, 302-03 (1957)).
One 1989 case, Vickey v. Nessler, helped the courts characterize traffic offenses as quasi-criminal for the purpose of “fundamental fairness and essential justice to the accused.” Defendants charged with DUI or DWI are entitled to the same protections anyone facing a criminal offense are afforded. The state must still prove its case against you beyond a reasonable doubt. For this reason, it is essential that you contact a DUI attorney as soon as possible following an arrest to ensure that you are treated fairly in the eyes of the law.
The DUI and DWI Process: What Happens After Arrest?
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 in court. This is usually within one week of your arrest. If you retain Daniel M. Rosenberg & Associates as your attorney, you may not have to appear and the court will schedule your case for another appearance three to four weeks later.
During that time, our legal team will handle all communications with the police on your behalf. Daniel M. Rosenberg & Associates will obtain documentation from the state, which includes:
- Police reports
- Alcotest or breath test records
- Dashboard video
- Forensic analysis documents
- Audio and video files
- Probable cause statements
- All charging documents.
Additionally, we may retain expert witnesses on your behalf to provide reports to offer in your defense. Sometimes the police don’t finish discovery and we’ll have to press the issue — just one of several reasons why it’s crucial to hire an attorney like Daniel M. Rosenberg & Associates right after your arrest.
Entering a Plea
Once the discovery is complete, our attorneys 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. Also, we will explore whether you were stopped by an NJ DRE, or Drug Recognition Expert, as this type of officer often claims to have determined your blood alcohol level via visual evaluation. In many DRE cases, We will advise you on whether to plead guilty or go to trial. As experienced N.J. DUI/DWI attorneys, it’s our job to also educate you on all the possible outcomes of your case before we appear in court.
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.
Sentencing and Appeal
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 our legal team will attempt to undermine the state’s case. If we’re successful, the charges 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.
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.