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Strategies to Fight a DUI Charge Effectively

Strategies to Fight a DUI Charge Effectively

A conviction for DWI in New Jersey carries hefty penalties. All offenses, including first offenses, lead to mandatory fines, education programs, and driver’s license suspensions. Judges may also sentence offenders to up to 30 days in jail. In addition to the court fees, fines, and surcharges offenders face, their insurance premiums will spike.

You need to present the strongest DUI defense possible when facing charges. Fortunately, you have several options, from negating necessary elements of the prosecution’s case to raising questions about the accuracy of your alcohol test results.

Elements of a DUI Offense in New Jersey

Before you learn how to defend yourself from a DUI charge, you must first understand what a prosecutor must prove for a conviction. New Jersey law refers to a drunk driving offense as both “driving while intoxicated” (DWI) and “driving under the influence” (DUI). You can use these terms interchangeably because they refer to the same crime.

Prosecutors have two options for proving DUI in New Jersey. First, a prosecutor can show that a driver operated a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicating:

  • Liquor
  • Narcotic
  • Hallucinogen
  • Habit-producing drug

Under the first option, prosecutors must prove that the intoxicant affected your driving. They usually do this with testimony from the officer or officers who stopped you. They will explain the traffic violations they observed. If the police cruiser had a dashcam, prosecutors might present video evidence of your impaired driving.

Prosecutors who use this tactic do not need to prove that your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was over the legal limit. They can win a conviction even if your BAC was below the limit.

The second option is called a “per se” violation. Under this option, prosecutors must show your BAC was at the legal limit of 0.08% or higher. However, they do not need to prove the intoxicant affected your driving. When your BAC is over the legal limit, a prosecutor can get a conviction even if you were driving perfectly.

Defenses for Fighting DUI Charges

A skilled DUI attorney will have several proven strategies for fighting DUI charges. These strategies generally aim to counter the prosecution’s case or raise explanations and justifications for what the prosecutor presented. 

Since every case involves unique facts, you can talk to an experienced lawyer about the defenses you might raise. Your strategies for fighting a DUI charge may include the following:

Challenge Alcohol Test Results

While blood tests are the measurement required by New Jersey’s DWI statute, police officers may instead use the alcohol content of your breath to estimate the alcohol in your blood. 

Officers and prosecutors often imply that the results of these breath tests are definitive. But like all scientific testing, they have drawbacks. The accuracy of breath tests can vary widely. Some reasons you may have received inaccurate test results include:

  • Alcohol in your mouth from a recent drink
  • Smoking or vaping before the test
  • Alcohol-containing mouthwashes
  • Low battery levels in the device
  • Fluctuations in body temperature
  • Atypical lung capacity
  • Outdated or glitchy software

A lawyer can investigate whether any of these issues affected your test results. If prosecutors only pursued a per se violation, they could lose their most vital piece of evidence.

Explain Physical Impairment

Suppose that the prosecutor’s case relies on alleged traffic violations or a failed field sobriety test rather than BAC. You can fight the charges by showing evidence that your behavior was not due to alcohol. Some reasons that driving might appear erratic include:

  • Medical events, like chest pain or a panic attack
  • Bad roads
  • Glare
  • Vehicle faults, like a stuck gas pedal or bad brakes

This strategy is particularly helpful when the prosecution has a dashcam video of your driving. After seeing the video, a judge or jury will want to hear why you drove erratically.

Raise Involuntary Intoxication

DUI is a strict liability offense. The prosecution does not need to show that you intended to drive while intoxicated. Nevertheless, prosecutors might drop the charges if you show that you were unaware that you were intoxicated. An example of this defense could be showing that someone spiked your drink with drugs.

Assert a Constitutional Violation

Everyone is entitled to certain constitutional rights. These rights include:

  • The police must have probable cause to stop your vehicle
  • They must have probable cause and exigent circumstances to search your car
  • You must have the opportunity to consult a lawyer

When the government violates your constitutional rights, it cannot use anything it finds from that violation. For example, the government cannot use evidence gathered during an illegal search. If the police stopped you illegally, your lawyer will try to get the entire case thrown out.

Learn More About DUI Defenses

You have many strategic options when you face DUI charges. An experienced criminal defense attorney can tailor a defense to your particular circumstances. Contact us to learn about the defenses we may assert in your DUI case.


Author: Steven Ellman

Steven is laser-focused on helping his clients resolve their legal issues promptly, receive fair compensation where applicable, and move forward with their lives. He is known for treating all his clients with the utmost respect, listening to their concerns, giving them options, and helping them make informed decisions about how to best proceed with their cases.