Being arrested for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI) can be a scary and uncertain time. You may not know what to do or where to turn first. Doing the right things immediately after a DUI arrest can help you in future legal actions.
Following are some general recommended steps to take after a DUI/DWI arrest. Note that New Jersey treats both DUI and DWI as the same offense.
Take the chemical test. You will be offered a chemical test after being brought to the police station or hospital if there was an accident with injuries. This test involves breath, blood, and urine samples. Please take it. Refusing to take the test will result in severe penalties, so willingly and cooperatively submit to it. You can decline a field sobriety test or a portable breathalyzer test before your arrest. You cannot refuse the chemical test after your arrest.
Be cooperative and calm. Fighting law enforcement either physically or verbally will not get you anywhere. Do not overshare information, and do not answer any probing questions until a lawyer is present. Be respectful toward all law enforcement personnel and others you encounter throughout the process. Your behavior and demeanor will be noted.
Request a lawyer. You have a constitutional right to a lawyer after an arrest. Requesting a lawyer has several benefits. It makes you look as if you are in control of your reasoning abilities and understand the situation. Having a lawyer will also help you not say anything that could later be held against you in court.
It is essential to request a criminal defense lawyer that specializes in DUI cases. They have managed hundreds of similar situations and know what needs to be done to defend your rights and build your defense.
If you do not know a lawyer offhand, contact a family member or friend to find one for you. Do not accept a public defender to represent you, if possible. They usually have high caseloads and may not give your case the attention or expertise it needs.
Ask the lawyer to come to the jail while you are still in custody. Engage them right away in your defense. They can negotiate your release, including a lower bail amount or a release on your own recognizance (ROR).
Exercise your right to remain silent. You also have the constitutional right to remain silent after an arrest. Do not attempt to explain yourself or the circumstances. Do not answer questions except for basic questions needed to establish your identity. Anything you say will be held against you later. Let your lawyer speak for you. That is another reason to engage them right away, ideally when you are still in custody.
Arrange for bail, if needed. Your lawyer will help negotiate bail. Posting bail is often required after a DUI arrest, even a first-time offense. A family member or friend can usually post bail on your behalf, generally 10 percent of the total amount. You may need the help of a bail bondsman if you cannot get the bail yourself. A bail bond agent will require an upfront fee to post bail for you. In return, you must attend all hearings and not flee while your case is in process. Otherwise, the bail bondsman will come looking for you.
Focus on the facts of your arrest. As soon as possible, write down everything you remember about the arrest: what you were doing when pulled over; what the officer said before, during, and after the arrest; what you said; and how you responded to the officer’s requests. Note if the officer did or did not read your Miranda rights. Everything you can remember will be invaluable to your lawyer and your defense. No detail is too insignificant.
Understand the process and timelines. When meeting with your lawyer, be sure to get a clear idea of what will happen and when. Know critical dates and deadlines. You will need to attend some of the hearings with your lawyer, so be sure to clear your schedule to do so.
Note that your first court appearance, called the initial hearing or arraignment, will generally happen within a few days of your arrest. Be sure you have a lawyer by then or request a public defender to guide you at this initial hearing.
The initial hearing or arraignment is when the judge will read the charges against you and the possible penalties. You will need to enter your plea during the arraignment, which should always be not guilty. A not-guilty plea allows you to defend yourself against the charges with your lawyer’s help. You will have the opportunity to get the charges reduced or dropped, so know that there are options with a DUI arrest.
Request a DMV hearing. Your lawyer will guide you through this request and hearing. After a DUI arrest, you will have limited days, usually 10, to make a formal request for a DMV hearing. This hearing will determine whether you can keep your driver’s license. If there is no request for a DMV hearing, your license will be automatically suspended.
Follow your lawyer’s advice. Your lawyer knows what they are doing. They will act according to the severity of charges against you. Cooperate with their requests as they build your defense. Listen to their advice about not talking or posting on social media about the case. Provide the documents and other items they request. They are working on your behalf, so cooperate fully and be respectful.
Be prepared to play your part. There will be many months of preparation; discovery, collecting evidence; and other procedures to negotiate your motion or prepare for a bench or court trial. You will need to take an active role in your defense as your lawyer advises you to do so. In the meantime, following your lawyer’s advice and staying out of trouble are two ways to help your defense.
The above are general considerations, not exact legal advice. Your lawyer will fill in the details about your unique case.
What is Considered DUI in New Jersey?
In New Jersey, a person under the legal drinking age of 21 can be charged with DUI if they have a blood alcohol level (BAC) of 0.01 percent or more. Those aged 21 and over can be charged when their BAC is 0.08 percent or higher. Keep in mind that impairment from any amount of alcohol or drugs, including prescription and over-the-counter medications, can be cause for a law enforcement officer to pull you over while driving.
There are various penalties and consequences of a DUI/DWI arrest in New Jersey, most depending on how many prior offenses the person has. Penalties include detainment in jail or another facility, license suspension, education programs, and fees.
The critical thing to remember is that you have legal rights, even after a DUI arrest. An experienced lawyer can make the most of your rights for your protection.
Freehold Criminal Defense Lawyers at Ellis Law Advocate for Your Rights under the Law
Being arrested for driving under the influence is scary and uncertain, but you do have rights. The Freehold criminal defense lawyers at Ellis Law can restore your confidence in knowing everything possible is being done to exercise your rights under the law. For a free consultation, call us at 732-308-0200 or complete our online form. We are located in Freehold, New Jersey, and help clients throughout Freehold, East Brunswick, Toms River, Middletown, Jersey City, Neptune, Hudson County, Union County, Essex County, Monmouth County, Marlboro, and Ocean County, as well as Brooklyn, New York, and New York City.