An Expensive Consequence of the Office Holiday Party: The Cost of Drunk Driving in New Jersey (Part Two)

Part Two: Trying the Case

So, once your office party/Friendsgiving/New Year’s Bash has come and gone, what comes next?  Ideally, you did not drink and drive and are, at worst, nursing a nasty hangover and deciding how to explain certain embarrassing moments.  If, however, you made a mistake and got arrested for driving while intoxicated (DWI), you have a summons to municipal court and a real journey ahead.

Trying the Case in Municipal Court

A case in the Municipal Court occurs very similarly to a case in the criminal court.  Once you have arrived in the municipal court, you have a choice–you can either plead guilty to the charges, or go to trial.  If the case goes to trial, there is discovery, motions to suppress, and other pre-trial actions which can be time-consuming and expensive.  If you plead guilty, the penalty may be reduced, or certain charges dismissed, but there will still be substantial and serious penalties.  It is important to contact a lawyer to discuss these options and find out what would be best for your particular circumstances.  This is especially true if this is not your first offense.

If you decide to go to trial, you may be able to use pre-trial motions and discovery to strengthen your case or get the case dismissed altogether.  In certain cases, the breath test results may be suppressed, which means that they cannot be admitted, including where there is evidence that the test was not properly calibrated, or where there were no reasonable grounds to perform the test.  A motion to suppress may also be granted for a blood test. Likewise, at trial, a defendant has the right to cross-examine witnesses, including the police officer that made the arrest.  If the case against the defendant is not proven “beyond a reasonable doubt,” the defendant will be found not guilty. State v. Kuropchak, 113 A.3d 1174, 1182 (N.J. 2015), citing State v. Kashi, 360 N.J. Super. 538, 544 (App. Div. 2003).

Appeal: Taking it to the Law Division

What happens if you’re convicted in Municipal Court? You may appeal the municipal court’s conviction or sentence to the Law Division. Kuropchak, supra, citing N.J. Court Rule 7:13-1 and 3:23-1.  The Law Division handles the appeal “de novo,” meaning that the case is tried again, as if the municipal trial never occurred.  Kuropchak, supra, citing State v. Johnson, 42 N.J. 146 (N.J. 1964).  If you are arrested for a DUI or have been convicted of a DWI in municipal court, you should consult a lawyer to address any appeal rights and assist you with any and all procedural requirements.

Consequences and Penalties

If you are convicted of a DWI, the consequences can be serious.  For a first offense, the penalty depends on the defendant’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC).  If the defendant’s BAC is between 0.08% and 0.10%, the penalty is a fine between $250 and $400, between 12 and 48 hours in the Intoxicated Driver Resource Center, up to 30 days incarceration, and loss of driver’s license for three monthsN.J.S.A. 39:4-50(a)(1)(i).

If the defendant’s BAC is 0.10% or above, or the defendant is found to be intoxicated on other substances, the penalty is a fine between $300 and $500, between 12 and 48 hours in the Intoxicated Driver Resource Center, potential incarceration up to 30 days, and a loss of license for a period of seven months to a yearN.J.S.A. 39:4-50(a)(1)(ii).

In either case, the court may order the installation of an ignition interlock device. N.J.S.A. 39:4-50(a)(1)(iii), P.L. 1999, c.417 (C.39:4-50.16 et al).

Your Second (or Third, or Fourth…) Time Around

What happens if this is a second or third offense or other subsequent DWI offense?  If you have had a conviction for DWI before, even if it is in another jurisdiction, you may be a repeat offender. N.J.S.A. 39:4-50.   If you have a previous conviction for refusing to submit to a breathalyzer, you may not be sentenced as a second-offense for a DWI. State v. Frye, 90 A.3d 1281, 1290 (N.J. 2014) citing Ciancaglini 10 A.3d 870 (N.J. 2011).

The New Jersey Appellate Division has recently found that even if you were previously convicted of a violation of a different subsection of the statute, you may be considered a second-time offender.  State v. Wheatley, (2016).  In that case, the court rejected a defendant’s claim that his previous conviction under subsection (g), which concerns violations committed in school zones, did not lead to a second-offense sentence for his conviction under subsection (a).  Id.

For a second offense, the penalty can be a fine between $500 and $1000, 30 days community service, 48 hours to 90 days in jail, and a loss of license for two years.  After two years, the defendant will have to re-apply for a driver’s license.  An ignition interlock device is also required.  N.J.S.A. 39:4-50(a)(2).

For a third offense, and every offense afterward, the penalty can be a fine of $1,000, incarceration for up to 180 days, and a loss of license for ten years.  The period of incarceration may be reduced up to 90 days for time spent in rehabilitation.

In addition, all penalties are higher when the DWI occurs on school property, within 1,000 feet of school property, or through a school crossing.  N.J.S.A. 39:4-50(g).  Under those conditions, the penalty for the first offense is a fine of $500 to $800, up to sixty days in jail, and a license suspension for one to two years.  For a second offense, the penalty is a fine of $1,000 to $2,000, sixty days community service, imprisonment (or community service if the court finds that appropriate) for up to 180 days (with 4 consecutive days required), and four years license suspension.  The third violation has a penalty of a $2,000 fine, 180 days incarceration (with a possible 90 days deducted for time spent in an inpatient rehabilitation program), and a 20 year license suspension.  N.J.S.A. 39:4-50.

Trying a DWI case alone can be overwhelming.  If you or a family member have been charged with a DWI, call the Fuggi Law Firm at 732-240-9095 for a free consultation, or visit us at our website


What Victims of Sexual Abuse Need to Know About New Jersey’s Statute of Limitations

Recently, a New Jersey man, J.D., filed suit against his former Spanish teacher, Ratner, for the abuse she committed against him when he was sixteen years old and a student in her class. This case was covered by the media (see i.e., N.J. teacher accused of sex with student 30 years ago placed on leave; Why this N.J. teacher is shielded from sex-with-student charge).

Many of the comments on these stories question why a student can bring a sexual assault claim stemming from sexual abuse thirty years ago. In New Jersey, the standard statute of limitations for any and all personal injuries, including sexual abuse, require that all personal injury cases commence within two years.  See N.J.S.A. 2A:14-2 and 2A:61 B-1 (b).

However, with sexual abuse, the statute of limitations is essentially put on pause where the victim has suffered from psychological, physical, mental or emotional problems as a result of the abuse and has not fully realized the scope of the abuse. The statute of limitations does not begin to run until the victim of the sexual abuse both realizes that he/she is a victim of sexual abuse AND relates the sexual abuse to the physical, psychological, mental and emotional harm that they have suffered.

Victims of child sexual assault and abuse do indeed suffer greatly. Studies that there is “a powerful relationship between our emotional experiences as children and our physical and mental health as adults….traumatic emotional experiences in childhood (grow) into organic disease later in life.”10 (Felitti, Vincent J., MD. “The Relationship of Adverse Childhood Experiences to Adult Heath: Turning Gold into Lead.” Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program., n.p., 2002. Web. ).  Many victims of childhood sexual abuse experience alcohol abuse, drug abuse, chronic depression, morbid obesity, diabetes, hypertension, coronary artery disease and many other effects.

In the case of J.D., the sexual abuse by his Spanish teacher continued for nine years and she twice became pregnant. Both pregnancies ended in abortions. Following the abuse, J.D. continued to be involved with Ratner and her family. However, in 2013, J.D. started to have intense and frequent panic attacks. He had to be hospitalized and was diagnosed with depression and anxiety disorder.

The diagnosis prompted counselor’s visits and treatment that ultimately resulted in a breakthrough on May 14, 2015, during which J.D. realized sexual abuse was to blame for his emotional issues. Because J.D. did not realize that he was a victim of sexual abuse and that sexual abuse was the cause of his ongoing psychological and emotional harm until May 14, 2015, the statute of limitations on J.D.’s case did not begin to run until May 14, 2015.

J.D.’s delayed realization that the “relationship” he experienced was actually sexual abuse is not uncommon. Data on sexual abuse victims tells us that the trauma involved in sexual abuse is difficult to not only understand but also to process. (Summit, Roland, C. M.D., “The Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome.”, Child Abuse & Neglect, Vol. 7). Many children who are victims of sexual abuse will repress or deny their memories in order to function in daily life. Many victims of sexual abuse are ill-equipped on their own to deal with these issues. They are afraid to come forward for fear of unbelief; that they are lying, and that they are manipulating and fearful of being rejected or abused again.