Should You Plead Guilty in your DWI Case in New Jersey?
Charges for driving while intoxicated (DWI) are not uncommon, and many drivers plead guilty just to put the entire thing behind them. However, you are better off getting an attorney to help you fight the charges.
Although you might feel pressured to plead guilty by prosecutors, it is rarely a good idea without advice from a defense lawyer. There might be ways you do not know about to fight your charges and reduce or avoid the penalties. Often, DWI defendants can fight their charges because the police did adhere to proper procedures, their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) measurements were incorrect, or the police lacked probable cause.
Connect with our New Jersey DWI defense lawyers to schedule a free case assessment by calling Young, Marr, Mallis & Associates at (609) 257-4019.
Is it a Good Idea to Plead Guilty to My DWI Charges in New Jersey?
You should not plead guilty to DWI charges without first consulting with an experienced lawyer. In many cases, defendants have grounds to challenge the charges against them. Prosecutors often rely on defendants being intimidated, afraid, and inexperienced, as this allows prosecutors to more easily persuade them to plead guilty. Our New Jersey criminal defense attorneys can help you figure out the best way to challenge your charges without pleading guilty.
Defendants sometimes agree to plead guilty because they are afraid of making the situation worse by fighting the charges. It is a far better idea to hire a lawyer and challenge the case. Prosecutors cannot somehow make your charges worse because you refuse to plead guilty. It is your right as a defendant to have a trial in front of a judge and make the prosecutors prove their case.
Defendants also often plead guilty because they are ashamed. They want to make the whole situation disappear as quickly as possible to avoid public humiliation. A better way to avoid humiliation is by clearing your good name of wrongdoing with the help of a qualified lawyer.
Lastly, defendants might agree to plead guilty to a crime through a program like PTI (Pre-Trial Intervention), which will keep the charge off your record in exchange for you participating in special rehabilitative programs. New Jersey does not allow PTI for DWI charges, only criminal offenses, which removes one major incentive to plead guilty.
How You Might Fight Your DWI Charges in New Jersey
The first thing you should do after hiring an attorney is determine the best way to fight your charges. There might be several good options to choose from, depending on your circumstances, and your lawyer can help you make the right choice.
Police Did Not Follow Protocol
One method of challenging your DWI charges is to determine if the police failed to adhere to proper protocols and procedures. Arrests for DWIs must follow a very specific set of rules. These rules are designed to protect the defendant’s rights and the safety of all parties involved.
One of the many rules the police must follow is that they cannot force you to submit to chemical testing for a DWI. Chemical testing is required by law and permitted under New Jersey’s implied consent law, N.J.S.A. § 39:4-50.2(a). According to this law, drivers have impliedly given consent to mandatory chemical testing simply by driving a vehicle on public roads. Even though chemical testing is mandatory after an arrest, the police are not permitted to physically force you to submit to testing. They must inform you of the consequences of refusal, which might include additional charges and penalties.
If the police force you to submit to testing when you wanted to refuse, or if you refused and the police did not inform you of the consequences, we can challenge the charges against you, at least as far as charges for refusal to test.
We can also challenge your charges if the police stop you arbitrarily. There must have been some reasonable suspicion for the traffic stop that ultimately led to your DWI arrest. If you were stopped randomly or for a reason you believe is illegal (e.g., race, gender, ethnicity), we can work to invalidate the arrest and hopefully have your charges dismissed.
Challenging Your BAC Results
You can also fight your charges by challenging the validity of the BAC results from chemical testing. In many cases, drivers do not resist the police and submit to chemical testing at the police station. If the machines and equipment needed for the breath test were not in working order when you were tested, the results might not be trustworthy or accurate, and we can challenge the charges against you.
Alternatively, your BAC results might not be accurate because of medications you were on or medical conditions. For example, common conditions like acid reflux have been known to make breath test results less accurate. Medications that contain slight amounts of alcohol, like cough syrups, can also affect a breath test if the medicine was taken shortly before being stopped.
Lack of Probable Cause
Before the police stop you, they need a valid reason. The police cannot see from outside your car whether you are intoxicated, and they cannot stop people randomly to see if they are intoxicated. As such, there has to be some other lawful reason for the stop. If there was none, we can help you fight your charges.
Often, the police stop drivers for traffic violations (e.g., running a red light, speeding, broken taillights) or erratic driving. These are things that are observable by law enforcement before they pull someone over. Even when the police stop drivers at DWI checkpoints, there is a system in place for stopping people, and drivers are not randomly selected or selected for arbitrary reasons.
Even if the police have a valid reason to initiate a traffic stop, they need probable cause to arrest someone for a DWI. The probable cause might come from observations made by the police officers during the stop. Slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, lack of coordination, and other physical conditions related to intoxication can be used to establish probable cause. If these conditions did not exist as the police claim they did, you should not plead guilty and instead challenge the charges.
Call Our New Jersey DWI Defense Lawyers for Help Now
Connect with our Trenton DWI defense lawyers to schedule a free case assessment by calling Young, Marr, Mallis & Associates at (609) 257-4019.z