What are Tiers in a DUI?
In New Jersey, only for a DUI first offense the consequences vary depending on the level of alcohol in your blood.
- Tier I – BAC.08-.099
- Tier II – BAC .10 – .149
- Tier III – BAC .15 or higher
The differences are significant: Length of loss of license (3 – 7 months), the fines and penalties, forced to install an ignition interlock device in your car (mini breath testing machine), time in Intoxicated Driver’s Resource Center (alcohol awareness), and possible jail or community service (rare in a first offense).
What was Ryan’s situation?
Ryan was a Tier III. That means he was facing at least a 7 month loss of license, higher fines, and the mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device.
On September 13, 2014, Ryan was leaving a party and going back to his girlfriend’s house when he got pulled over by a Little Silver police officer. The officer had him do Field Sobriety Tests and concluded that he was driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol in violation of N.J.S. 39:4-50. They arrested him and took him to the station to test the level of alcohol in his system.
He immediately hired Andres Mejer Law to guide him through this process. We first demanded that the State provide all relevant discovery including, police reports of the incident, video, and the Alcotest documents showing that the Alcotest was in proper working order when it gave him a reading of .16 blood alcohol content (BAC).
The video was inconclusive. Ryan did ok on this sobriety tests, not horrible but not great either. In evaluating possible defense strategy, Ryan advised that he had recently broken his ankle. We immediately asked for those medical records and wanted the treating physician to give a report as to his injury and his ability to successfully complete the Field Sobriety tests like the Walk and Turn and One Legged Stand tests. Problem was the injury happened when Ryan was studying abroad in New Zealand. We got the documents, but the doctor couldn’t testify if needed to. So we sent the records to a local expert who be available to testify if necessary.
How did the Expert help with Ryan’s case?
The local expert advised the injury wasn’t a fracture but a sprain. It got worse from there, since Ryan hadn’t followed up with any treatment. The injury turned out to be a sprain that occurred almost 18 months prior and it would be hard to say that the sprain categorically prevented him from successfully completing the Field Sobriety Tests.
We looked at other factors. We were able to isolate a problem with the Alcotest machine. Not only were some discovery items not provided, but the tests were done in less than two minutes between the breath samples. This means that there may have been residual solution or alcohol in the machine between the Tests and the Sample that Ryan gave. In other words, the readings are not reliable because the machine failed to complete its two minute purge in between the Tests and the Breath Sample.
Our expert discussed both of these issues. On the court date, we were advised the missing discovery items were available. After four months of litigation Ryan had a choice to make.
In this instance Ryan had to choose between (1) paying for the cost of an expert at trial with uncertain outcome; or (2) the certainty of a reduction in his charges without paying for an expert to testify. Ryan preferred the certainy of minimizing his consequences. We were able to reduce the charges from a Tier III to a Tier I DUI, with the help of the expert’s report. The remaining charges were dismissed. Ryan lost his license for three months and was given the absolute minimum fine.
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DUI Breath Sample thrown out in LIttle Silver Municipal Court