Is The Court Sympathetic Toward People Who Plead Guilty?
It is important to know that DWI is a statute of strict liability in New Jersey, meaning the judge would have very little wiggle room as far as the imposition of a sentence if someone was found guilty or they plead guilty to DWI. There is a little bit of room to maneuver on certain things, so a person could pay $200 to $500 for their actual fine in the court, but other than that they would lose their license.
It may be for three months, it may be seven months or it may even be seven months to a year depending on the circumstances, but at the end of the day the person would be losing their license. The judge would not have anything to say about that, so before the person went to court and handed the judge their license and decided they would just keep writing checks, they should probably at the very least have a competent attorney go over everything first, all the discovery and videos etc. and make sure there were no viable defenses.
What Do You Say To Clients Who Want To Plead Guilty And Just Give Up?
Actually, this is usually the first inclination of most people because they want to get it over with as quickly as possible. They would not be able to just get it over with by going in, just pleading guilty and handing over their license because it would have severe implications for them if they did so.
They would be facing fines of anywhere between $200 to $1000, they would lose their license, have issues with their auto insurance and they may have problems with work and other commitments because they would not be able to drive but they may also have implications for other things that are not quite as apparent. In New Jersey, there is a $1000 a year surcharge that has to be paid to the DMV. People tend to forget that, so even if someone was trying to plead guilty just to get it over with, they would be looking at a minimum of somewhere between $3500 and $4000 in fines and charges anyway.
My advice to most clients is to hire somebody who is experienced in this area of law and experienced in representing and defending people on this. At the very least they should go over all of the discovery and they should not make any decisions until they have had a chance to check over the police reports, videos and information from the breath test machine to make sure it was calibrated properly, working properly, the proper amount of time was given in between tests and things of that nature. This is something which I think is very important although most people do not think about it.
Would The Same Thing Apply To Someone With Multiple Offenses Versus The First Time?
It would be worse with multiple offenses because in New Jersey, the person would lose their license for two years on a second offense, and for a third offense they would lose it for 10 years and there would be a mandatory six months in county jail for a third offense.
A lot of people say they do not have the money to spend on this, however if they did not do so, they would basically just be handing over their license and that in itself could be a problem. They would be facing a problem as far as their employment if they had no way of getting to work and they would be asking for trouble if they just gave up and submitted without looking at anything or making sure they actually did not have any defenses.
Are There Alternative Punishments or Diversion Programs Available For First-Time Offenders?
No, there are no diversionary programs at this time for DWI, because it is taken so seriously and is not actually considered a crime. It is the legal equivalent of a speeding ticket, although the punishment and penalties are much stricter. It is also not considered a drug offense because the person was not convicted of possession of drugs, an assault or a criminal charge.
Because we as a society take drunk driving to be so serious, and rightly so, there is no diversionary program for that because this is not a case of somebody who made a mistake once so we would let them wait six months and then see what happens.
Is There Any Sort Of Help Or Assistance To Get A Temporary License In New Jersey?
New Jersey is very different than most jurisdictions, because there is no such thing as a conditional license or work license. Someone who was charged with a DUI would get to keep their license until the matter was resolved in court, at which point they would ask the person to hand in the physical license and they would not be able to get it back until the end of the suspension period, after they had paid a restoration fee to the Motor Vehicle Commission and actually gone to get their license.
Until the person is convicted, they would be allowed to drive around and they would have a license to do that. Once they have either been found guilty or entered a guilty plea, they would have to turn in their license and would not be able to drive any further at that point.
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