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Proposed Changes to DUI law 39:4-50 bad for defendantsThe proposed amendments to N.J.S. 39:4-50 going to Governor Christie for his signature will reduce your license suspension.  Isn’t that a good thing?So here are the issues I have with this:

  1. The ignition interlock device only works with alcohol.  If you are convicted of a DUI based on drug use you will be forced to install an ignition interlock device even though the ignition interlock only works with alcohol and the person didn’t consume any alcohol before driving.  So this device will not work to prevent the offense in the future;
  2. Anybody who wants to use the car would have to blow into the ignition interlock device, punishing those that didn’t do anything wrong;
  3. The ignition interlock device won’t start the car if your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) is .04 or higher, even though the legal limit is .08.  So if you had one glass of wine with dinner and get in the car, it won’t start and you may be forced to go back to court to explain what wasn’t illegal conduct;
  4. Defendants will have to rent the ignition interlock device, and it is expensive at approximately $100 per month;
  5. Those who don’t own or lease a car (like undocumented immigrants) would still face a long suspension since they can’t install a device on something they don’t own or lease; and
  6. Defendants who are not guilty (yes, there are some), may simply plead guilty to get it over with.  They may take the 10 day suspension not realizing the long-term consequences.

Nobody wants drunk drivers on the roads.  Everyone agrees they are a danger to themselves and others.

Here is what I worry about

My concern is that in some courts, a Judge may give someone the option to plead guilty while only losing their license for 10 days.  I have had clients that were cited on Tuesday night and had to appear in court Wednesday morning.  Some may in their ignorance plead guilty to take the 10 day license suspension before speaking to an attorney or even the prosecutor, simply out of expediency.  Some Judges in the interests of judicial economy do a disservice to defendants.

I have seen it too often with the use of a Conditional Discharge.  So here is the scenario, you are driving a car with a friend.  You get pulled over and your friend hides his marijuana and grinder under his seat.  You don’t know anything about the marijuana, and let the officer search the car.  When the officer finds the marijuana and grinder you say it isn’t yours and so does your friend.  You both get charged with constructive possession of the marijuana and the grinder.  When you go to court the Judge advises that this could all go away if you pay a fine and go to probation.  You both chose to do so before speaking to an attorney or even talking to the prosecutor.

This is all too common.  There is no way I would have allowed both of you to take a conditional discharge.  We also would have challenged the search and made sure that the lab results were done correctly and actually prove that the substance was marijuana.  You can only use a conditional discharge once in your life, wasting unnecessarily is not a good idea.

I hope that proposed changes to DUI (N.J.S. 39:4-50) don’t result in quick convictions of innocent persons.  The only real winner in that instance is the ignition interlock companies who will get a lot more business.

If you are charged with a DUI you need to know your options before going to court.  On this page you will see an offer for my books, click the link, put your name and contact information and we will give you these books free:

  1. Arrested for Drunk Driving?  Learn how to Beat the Odds – Here I discuss defense strategies, and common mistakes I see other attorneys make in defending these complicated cases.  I also list for your question you should ask any attorney that you interview for your defense.
  2. Why Pleading Guilty to Your New Jersey Traffic Ticket is NOT an Option – Here I discuss court process and violations, including DUI’s.  There lots of case examples here.
  3. An Immigrant’s Guide to Municipal Court.  This discusses specifically what you will encounter in  Municipal Court if you aren’t a U.S. citizen and how it can result in removal proceedings in Immigration Court.  I define important terms and guide you through the Municipal Court and Immigration Court process.

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