Your Newark DWI Case: The Basics

You're driving up Market after watching the Devils beat the Rangers at Prudential Center. You've had a few drinks, but you attribute the euphoric feeling to the great game, not the alcohol. Suddenly, a police car pulls you over for a busted taillight. But after asking you a few questions, the officer smells alcohol on your breath. He asks you if you've been drinking, and then asks you to exit the vehicle for a field sobriety test. After asking you to stand on one leg and walk a straight line, the officer asks you to take a Breathalyzer test. Based on the results, the officer arrests you and takes you to the police station to file a DWI complaint. So what happens next?

DWI Complaint Filed

In New Jersey, a DWI is a traffic violation rather than a crime. Instead of being "charged," the officer will look up your driving record and file a complaint. However, because the penalties for a DWI are quasi-criminal in nature and may include jail time and hefty fines, you are entitled to a trial and an attorney to represent you. Because DWI is not a crime, you won't be fingerprinted at the station and you're not entitled to a trial by jury.

The police officer will file a DWI complaint based on the results of the Breathalyzer or blood test you took to measure your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). The complaint could be:

  • DWI with a BAC below 0.08% but with substantial evidence of impairment
  • DWI with a BAC of 0.08% or above but below 0.10%
  • DWI with a BAC of 0.10% or higher

Related offenses include:

  • Driving or riding with an open container
  • Driving with a DWI suspension

The officer will confiscate your driver's license and complete a notice of suspension or revocation depending on the offense. He'll send it to the Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC). The officer should give you a piece of paper containing the notice of suspension and a temporary license that you can use until your suspension or revocation goes into affect.

MVC Hearing

You have 25 days from the time of the notice of suspension or revocation to contact the MVC for a hearing to challenge the complaint against you. You can have an attorney represent you at this hearing. If you don't request a hearing and 25 days pass, the MVC will automatically suspend or revoke your license based on the information the arresting officer provided.

The MVC hearing is different from a court trial and only applies to your license suspension/revocation and MVC fines resulting from your DWI arrest. Keep in mind that if you're convicted of a DWI in your Newark Municipal Court trial, suspension or revocation of your license and MVC fines will be automatic.

Newark Municipal Court-Step-by-Step

Arraignment: Typically, your arraignment at Newark Municipal Court will be held just a few days after your arrest. You may not need to attend the arraignment if you have an attorney to make the appearance for you, although some judges will require that you attend regardless. At the arraignment, you or your attorney will enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. If you plead guilty, the judge will consider the evidence against you and sentence you. If you plead not guilty, you'll be given a court date, usually for three to four weeks after your arrest.

Pre-trial Motions: Your attorney may want make certain pre-trial motions regarding the evidence in your DWI case, including motions to compel the prosecution to supply certain evidence to your attorney if they fail to do so, motions to suppress certain evidence or even a motion to dismiss the charges against you.

Trial: Because a DWI is a traffic violation rather than a crime, your trial will be in front of a municipal court judge instead of a jury. The judge will hear the evidence against you, hear your defense, make findings of fact and law and decide whether you are guilty or not guilty. If the judge finds you guilty, he or she will sentence you accordingly.

Sentencing: The sentence for a DWI conviction will vary depending on the offense.

DWI with a BAC of 0.08% or above but below 0.10% (or BAC of 0.01% or higher if you're under 21) may result in the following penalties:

  • $250 to $400 fine;
  • 12 to 48 hours at the Intoxicated Driver Resource Center;
  • At the court's discretion, up to 30 days imprisonment;
  • Driver's license suspension for 3 months;
  • Possible installation of an ignition interlock device for six months to one year;
  • Other terms of probation

DWI with a BAC of 0.10% or higher may result in the following penalties:

  • $300 to $500 fine;
  • 12 to 48 hours at the Intoxicated Driver Resource Center;
  • At the court's discretion, up to 30 days imprisonment;
  • Driver's license suspension for 7 months to one year;
  • Possible installation of an ignition interlock device for six months to one year;
  • Other terms of probation

Sentences for repeat DWIs become progressively more severe for the second and third offense and include mandatory imprisonment.

Appeal: A DWI conviction in Newark Municipal Court can be appealed to the Essex County Superior Court, but you must file an appeal within 20 days of the judgment against you.

Now that you know the basics of your Newark DWI, check out FindLaw's section on DUI Law for more information. If you haven't already done so, consider meeting with a lawyer to talk about your DWI case.

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