New Year’s Eve is a time to ring out the old and celebrate the new. Unfortunately for some, too much celebrating may have led to an arrest or even jail time. Indeed, local police often set up sobriety checkpoints or put more officers on traffic patrol to nab impaired drivers on New Year’s Eve. The Freehold criminal defense lawyers at Ellis Law have helped defend people charged with these common New Year’s Eve crimes:
- DUI (driving under the influence)
- DWI (driving while intoxicated or impaired)
- Underage drinking
- Property damage/vandalism/criminal mischief
- Assault and battery
- Public intoxication/disorderly conduct
DUI and DWI/Underage Drinking
The most common crime on New Year’s Eve across the United States is DWI/DUI. In fact, between Christmas and New Year’s, 40 percent of deadly crashes involve drunk drivers, according to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Some states differentiate between DUI and DWI, but New Jersey does not. The terms are used interchangeably to mean driving under some type of impairment, whether it be drugs or alcohol.
In New Jersey, a person under the legal drinking age of 21 can be charged with DUI/DWI if they have a blood alcohol level (BAC) of 0.01 percent or more. People age 21 and over can be charged when their BAC is 0.08 percent or higher. However, a BAC test is not the only way a person can be found guilty of DUI/DWI in New Jersey. Drugs, whether over-the-counter medications, prescription drugs, or illegal substances, and any amount of alcohol that impairs a driver can be cause for arrest.
There are various penalties and consequences of a DUI/DWI arrest in New Jersey, most depending on how many prior offenses the person has on their record. Penalties include detainment in jail or another facility, license suspension, education programs, and fees. In addition, related charges are common in a DWI/DUI situation and can include the following:
- Driving with a suspended license
- Reckless driving
- Speeding and similar charges
- Possession of an open container of alcohol
- Possession of drugs/drug paraphernalia
- Refusal to take a breathalyzer test
An experienced criminal defense lawyer can help those charged with DUI/DWI understand their rights.
Property Damage/Vandalism/Criminal Mischief
In New Jersey, property damage, vandalism, and criminal mischief all refer to damaging someone else’s tangible property, either purposely or by being reckless or negligent. Depending on the value of the property damaged, this offense could be punishable by up to five years in prison and a $15,000 fine. If charged with property damage, vandalism, or criminal mischief, the accused should consult with a criminal defense lawyer who can work to get charges reduced or dismissed.
Assault and Battery
Assault and battery charges are often higher on New Year’s Eve than on a typical night in New Jersey. Most often, alcohol or drugs are to blame for increased bodily injury cases, and citations are commonly made in bars, nightclubs, or at private parties. In New Jersey, there is a difference between the charge of assault and that of battery. With criminal battery charges, the perpetrator must have made physical contact with another person or something they were holding or wearing, which is considered an extension of the person.
A simple assault charge only requires the victim to be in imminent fear of battery, such as when a perpetrator makes threats of physical violence. A person committing criminal battery will be charged with aggravated assault under New Jersey law, a second-degree crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000.
Public Intoxication/Disorderly Conduct
In New Jersey, public intoxication can lead to disorderly conduct, which refers to offensive behavior or language that occurs in a public place. Persons under the age of 21 can also be charged with underage drinking if cited for disorderly conduct. Disorderly conduct is a petty offense that carries up to 30 days in jail and up to a $500 fine.
Trespassing charges are also more common on New Year’s Eve. In New Jersey, criminal trespassing is defined as unlawful entry onto a property. Trespassing can include the following actions:
- Remaining in a research facility or a structure when not licensed or privileged to be there.
- Peering into a window or other opening of a dwelling or structure used for overnight accommodation, thereby invading another’s privacy.
- Defiantly trespassing by entering or remaining in any place where notice against trespassing is given through verbal or other communication, such as a sign or a fence.
Penalties for trespassing in New Jersey vary depending on where the trespassing took place and include hefty fines and jail time.
What if I was Pulled Over on New Year’s Eve?
An officer can stop anyone they believe to be intoxicated. Drivers should review if they did any the following while pulled over on New Year’s Eve:
- Pulled over to a safe location that was well lit.
- Refrained from saying anything during a traffic stop could have been recorded and used.
- Maintained a polite, calm, and cooperative demeanor.
- Politely declined a field sobriety test and portable breathalyzer test.
- When brought to the police station, the driver agreed to offer breath, blood, or urine for a chemical sobriety test.
- Requested a lawyer.
It is important to seek the counsel of a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer to review each case and advise on the next best steps after a criminal charge.
Freehold Criminal Defense Lawyers at Ellis Law Help Those Facing Criminal Charges
Anyone charged with a crime on New Year’s Eve should immediately consult with the Freehold criminal defense lawyers at Ellis Law. It is vital to have a strong criminal defense lawyer by your side throughout the legal process to ensure your rights are protected. Our experienced team knows criminal law and the legal process. We will use every legal tool available to help your case. Call us at 732-308-0200 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Freehold, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout East Brunswick, Toms River, Middletown, Jersey City, Neptune, Hudson County, Union County, Essex County, and Ocean County, as well as Brooklyn and New York, New York.