If you are caught driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you could be charged with a misdemeanor or felony offense. The severity of the charge will depend on multiple factors such as your blood alcohol content at the time you are taken into custody. Let’s take a look at other factors that could come into play in a DUI case and the potential penalties that you might face if convicted of such a crime.
How an Officer Determines If You Driving While Impaired
Generally speaking, erratic driving is a clue that a motorist is operating a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or marijuana. However, an officer will look for other clues such as the smell of alcohol on your breath or the smell of marijuana coming from your car. Slurred speech, bloodshot eyes or disheveled clothing could also be signs that you’re not capable of operating a motor vehicle safely.
Factors Besides Blood Alcohol Content That Determine the Severity of a DUI Charge
State law may mandate that any driver who has had a previous DUI conviction in the past several years be charged with felony drunk or impaired driving. This may also be true if you have a child in a vehicle that you are operating while impaired by drugs or alcohol. Finally, a charge might be upgraded if your reckless behavior injures another individual or causes significant property damage.
The Penalties You Could Face If Convicted of Drunk or Impaired Driving
There is a chance that you could be sentenced to jail or prison time even if you have no prior DUI convictions on your record. There is also a strong chance of paying a fine of up to $1,000 in addition to other court or legal costs. If you fail to submit to a blood or Breathalyzer test, your license will likely be suspended even if you are ultimately acquitted of the drunk or impaired driving charge.
This is because New Jersey has implied consent laws that all drivers agree to abide by when obtaining their licenses. A judge might also sentence you to community service or require that an ignition interlock device (IID) be installed in your vehicle. An IID measures the amount of alcohol in a person’s breath and won’t start if your blood alcohol level is at .02% or higher.
The Potential Defenses to a DUI Charge
There are many different defenses that an attorney may employ to help you obtain a favorable outcome in your legal matter. For instance, it might be possible to claim that you were experiencing a medical emergency at the time an officer witnessed your vehicle swerving on the road. It might also be possible to assert that you had unknowingly consumed alcohol or had been forced against your will to drive after consuming marijuana or other drugs.
Alternatively, your attorney could cast doubt on the results of a blood or breath test administered at the scene of a traffic stop. In some cases, there may be reason to cast doubt on the basis for the traffic stop that led to the DUI charge. If successful, evidence collected after an officer first made contact with you could be suppressed before or during a trial.
If you have been charged with DUI, it is important to speak with an attorney as soon as possible. He or she may be able to help you better understand your rights during the legal process and provide more information about what might happen if you are convicted of the charge. In the event that a case is dropped, legal counsel may be able to get it expunged from your record.
Roadblocks in DUI Cases
If you’ve been charged with a DUI after being stopped at a sobriety checkpoint, how the checkpoint was conducted may be something that you can use in your defense. The best way to prepare your defense is consulting with a defense attorney who will have full knowledge of the laws regarding DUI checkpoints and can determine if any of them weren’t followed during your arrest.
DUI checkpoints themselves aren’t unconstitutional, although there have been court cases challenging their legality. The United States Supreme Court has ruled that because of their benefits in terms of public safety and as deterrents to drunk driving, DUI checkpoints are not intrusive enough that they violate the Fourth Amendment. For the most part, the Supreme Court has left laws regarding these checkpoints up to each individual state to decide.
There are several DUI checkpoint laws in place common to all states that allow them. There must be clear warning signs indicating that there is a checkpoint ahead. If a checkpoint was set up without any sort of warning signs, your defense attorney can argue that it wasn’t set up correctly, and therefore your case should be dismissed. A police department must provide public notice in advance of setting up a DUI checkpoint. In court, the prosecution will need to provide proof of this public notice. Police officers can’t choose to stop cars randomly at a DUI checkpoint, instead they need a set system for stopping cars, such as stopping every third car that comes through the checkpoint. This is to avoid any instances of profiling. If a DUI checkpoint didn’t have a system like this in place, then your defense attorney can argue that you shouldn’t have been stopped in the first place.
When you are stopped at a DUI checkpoint, you have the same rights and protections that you would have at any other traffic stop. An officer still needs probable cause to request that you take a breathalyzer or to arrest you on suspicion of DUI. If your defense attorney can prove that there was not probable cause to request that you take a breathalyzer or arrest you, then your case may be dismissed. It can be difficult to prove that an officer didn’t have probable cause, since it often comes down to your word versus the word of the officer. However, if your stop was recorded on video, either by your own dash camera or an officer’s, that may provide evidence that supports your defense.
What if you turned another direction away from the DUI checkpoint and the police pulled you over, which lead to your DUI charge? This is a common situation, as officers are closely watching cars as they approach the checkpoint and often pull over cars that turn away at the last second. Simply turning away from a checkpoint isn’t a traffic violation though. As long as you don’t break any traffic laws when you turn off, such as making a U-turn in the middle of the road, the police don’t have the right to pull you over. If an officer pulled you over when you hadn’t broken any traffic laws, then your defense attorney can again argue that you should not have been stopped in the first place, meaning the case against you should be dismissed.
A DUI is a serious charge that can result in expensive fines, suspension of your driver’s license and even jail time, in some cases. That’s why it’s crucial that you hire a skilled attorney to investigate the factors that led to your arrest, including the DUI checkpoint and the evidence that the officers found to suspect you of driving impaired, and then prepare a suitable defense. Your attorney will have extensive knowledge of DUI checkpoint procedures and can use that knowledge to determine if there were any issues with how the checkpoint was conducted. They can also see if the officer had probable cause to arrest you. When you need an effective defense, an attorney is your best option.