1.       Question: What is the difference between “DWI” and “DUI”?

Answer: DUI stands for Driving Under the Influence and refers to drunk driving offenses, while DWI stands for Driving While Intoxicated or Driving While Impaired. In some states, the two terms are both used to describe impaired or drunken driving. However, in states where both terms are used, DWI usually refers to driving while intoxicated of alcohol, while DUI is used when the driver is charged with being under the influence of alcohol or drugs. New Jersey law makes no distinction between a DWI and a DUI.

2.       Question: What is “blood alcohol content” (BAC) or level?

Answer: Blood alcohol content (BAC) is a metric of alcohol in your blood stream at the time you are stopped for a DUI. All states have a minimum BAC of .08% for adults, so if you’re BAC is at or above that level, you’ll be charged with DUI. Also, most states have “zero-tolerance” DUI laws for drivers under 21 years old. In these states, the BAC for drivers under 21 could be as low as .01%.

3.       Question: What do police officers look for when searching for drunk drivers on the highways?

Answer: The following list is based upon research conducted by the National Highway Traffic Administration, which are symptoms that the police search for when hunting for DWI drivers:

  • Turning With a Wide Radius
  • Almost Striking Object or Vehicle
  • Weaving
  • Driving on Other Than Designated Highway
  • Swerving
  • Stopping Without Cause in Traffic Lane
  • Following Too Closely
  • Drifting
  • Braking Erratically
  • Signaling Inconsistent with Driving Actions
  • Slow Response to Traffic Signals
  • Turning Abruptly or Illegally
  • Accelerating or Decelerating Rapidly
  • Headlights Off

4.       Question: Do I have to take a breathalyzer, blood test, or urine test if I am stopped for DUI or DWI?

Answer: You may refuse to take a breathalyzer, blood test, or urine test during a DUI or DWI stop, but almost every state has a so-called “implied consent” law that says a refusal can result in suspension of your driver’s license from anywhere between three to 12 months.

5.      Question: What happens if I refused to take a breath test?

Answer: In New Jersey, refusing to submit to chemical breath testing is a separate offense under N.J.S.A. 39:4-50.4a. A conviction for refusal carries with it similar penalties to a conviction for DWI, and the severity of those penalties depends on whether it is a first, second, or third or subsequent offense. In all cases, a conviction for refusal carries with it a mandatory license suspension.

 6.       Question: Do I have the right to talk to an attorney before taking a breathalyzer, blood test, or urine test?

Answer: The law on this varies from state to state. As a general rule, there is no right to an attorney until you have submitted to (or refused) blood, breath or urine testing. In some states, there is a right to consult with counsel upon being arrested or before deciding whether to submit to chemical testing.

 7.       Question: Can I “plea bargain” a New Jersey DWI charge?

Answer: The New Jersey Supreme Court has instructed Municipal Courts that No plea agreements are allowed in New Jersey DWI cases. In some cases, a prosecutor may however, dismiss a DWI charge where the state is convinced they will not be able to prove the charge beyond a reasonable doubt.

 8.       Question: What if I am licensed in another state and am found guilty of DWI in New Jersey?

Answer: New Jersey courts only have jurisdiction (i.e. the authority) over your driving privileges in New Jersey. A New Jersey DWI conviction will usually be shared with the state where you are licensed. Thereafter, that state generally can take action against your driving privileges there – independent of what happens in New Jersey. This is known as the law of “reciprocity.”

 9.       Question: What are the penalties for a DUI conviction?

Answer: The penalties for a DUI conviction vary from state to state and also on whether this is a first, second, third or subsequent conviction. Penalties may include jail time, fines, license suspension, ignition interlock device, community service, and education programs.