When Does a DWI Incident Lead to Criminal Charges?

Are DUI’s Considered Criminal Offenses in NJ?

Under New Jersey law, driving while intoxicated (DWI) offenses are categorized as traffic offenses. In other words, anyone convicted of a DWI in New Jersey will not be scarred with a permanent criminal record. This is contrary to most other states throughout the Country. With that being said, there are numerous situations whereby a situation that started out as an investigation in a potential DWI leads to must more serious criminal charges. That is when things can quickly escalate from bad to worse. For the most part, the criminal charges that derive from a DWI investigation are indictable offenses (felony) and as such, will require that the individual’s entire case gets transferred to the County Superior Court for disposition as opposed to the local municipal court. Some of the most common indictable offenses we see derived from a routine DUI investigation include but are not limited too: eluding, resisting arrest, possession of a controlled dangerous substance, endangering the welfare of a child, unlawful possession of a weapon, assault by auto and death by auto.

Endangering the Welfare of a Child as a Result of DWI in Monmouth County

If an individual is charged with driving while intoxicated or refusal to submit a breath sample and it is determined that a child was present in the car at the time of the incident, they could also be facing an endangering the welfare of a child charge as well. Endangering the welfare of a child is either a second or third degree felony offense in New Jersey. The logic behind the charge is that if the individual is driving while intoxicated with a child in the vehicle, they are potential exposing that child to harm. In short, if the child that forms the basis for the charges is the individual’s child and/or that individual assumed responsibility to care for the child then they would be facing a second degree felony. A second degree felony exposes an individual to up to a decade in prison and a find up to $150,000. If it is determined that the individual was not in parent or guardian to the child and they did not assume responsibility for the child, then they would be facing a third degree felony. A conviction for a third degree indictable offense exposes the individual for anywhere between three to five years in prison and a $15,000 fine. As you can tell, being charged with endangering the welfare of a child as a result of a DWI arrest is not something to take lightly. This is just one of many examples how a routine traffic stop can mushroom into a nightmare.

Facing a Drug Charge After Being Stopped for DWI in Middletown

Being arrested for a DWI is terrifying enough but once the officer starts conducting a search of your persons or your vehicle looking for “intoxicants”, things can quickly turn into a nightmare. As one would imagine, there can certainly be a connection between a DWI allegations and possession of a controlled dangerous substance charge. Most controlled dangerous substance (CDS) charges stem from either a search incident of arrest or a search of the motor vehicle for “intoxicants”. Regardless of the basis underlying how the CDS was uncovered, anyone charged with a CDS offense originating out of a DWI stop could see their routine traffic case transferred to Superior Court for much higher stakes litigation. Almost every CDS offense, whether it be cocaineheroinecstasy (MDMA), Crack Cocaine or prescription drugs like Codeine, Xanax or Valium will need to be transferred from the local municipal court to the County superior court for disposition. Most CDS possession related offenses are third degree crimes in New Jersey. That means that, in addition to the potential penalties for the DWI offense, which could include the imposition of the ignition interlock device and a loss of license, the individual will be facing three to five years in a State Prison and a $35,000 fine.

Arrested for Assault by Auto and DWI at the Jersey Shore

If an individual is hurt as a result of a motor vehicle accident and one of the driver’s is alleged to have been operating under the influence, there is a very good chance that they will be facing assault by auto charges in addition to the DUI. Anyone facing an assault by auto charge where it is alleged that they were operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs will be facing either a second, third or fourth degree felony. If the alleged victim suffered what is known as “bodily injury” then the individual will be facing a fourth degree felony. If the individual suffered what is known as “serious bodily injury” then the individual will be facing a third degree felony. If the incident occurred within 1000 feet of a school zone and the alleged victim suffered “serious bodily injury” then the individual will  be facing a second degree felony. All of these cases, regardless of the degree will need to be transferred, along with the DWI from the local municipal court to the County court where the incident happened. As one would imagine, these types of offenses are a hot button issue and as a result tend to be aggressively prosecuted. For more information on assault by auto charges in Monmouth County, please click the link.

Charged with Eluding and DWI Offense in Monmouth County

All too often we see a routine traffic stop turn into a nightmare when the driver, normally under the influence of alcohol or drugs, takes off and engages in a police chase. If that is to occur, the individual will almost certainly be saddled with an eluding charge as well. Due to the inherent danger behind an eluding charge, it should not be a surprise to hear this type of offense is aggressively prosecuted. The vast majority of eluding offense that we see being issued when it is also alleged that the driver was under the influence will be considered crimes of the second degree. In fact, if any motor vehicle infraction is committed, a permissive inference is allowed to be drawn that the crime “created a risk of death or injury to any person”, thus making it a crime of the second degree. If the incident did not “create a risk of death or injury to any person” then the individual will only be charged with eluding in the third degree. As highlighted above, regardless of the degree, anyone facing an eluding charge as well as a DWI charge, could be subjected to extremely harsh penalties if convicted. For more information on eluding offenses in New Jersey, including the potential penalties if convicted, please click the link.

Charged with Death by Auto in Freehold

If as a result of a motor vehicle accident, whereby it is alleged that the driver was operating under the influence of drugs or alcohol and a death occurs, the driver will most likely be facing at a minimum death by auto charges. If there are significant aggravating factors in addition to being under the influence, such as excessive speeding or extremely reckless driving the individual could be facing aggravated manslaughter charges as well. Death by auto is a second degree felony offense, which would subject the individual to up to a decade in prison and since this falls under the No Early Release Act, they would have to 85% of their sentence before they can become eligible for parole. Conversely, aggravated manslaughter is a crime of the first degree and if convicted, the individual could be facing anywhere from 10 to 30 years in State Prison. This offense will also be subject to the No Early Release Act. Since it is required to prove “recklessness” on behalf of the driver under the death by auto statute, the legislature choose to add new legislation, which creates strict liability for anyone who alleged to have caused the death of another as a result of driving while intoxicated. Strict liability vehicular homicide is a third degree crime. For anyone convicted, the potential sentence could be up to five years in state prison. For more information on these charges, please click the corresponding links.

Need to Speak to a Lawyer in Monmouth County about Criminal and DWI Charges

Keith Oliver Criminal Law has been defending those accused of traffic offenses like driving under the influence and criminal charges like assault by auto, endangering the welfare of a child and possession of a controlled dangerous substance in Courts throughout Monmouth County for a decade now. Our attorneys appear in courts throughout Monmouth County, including towns like Holmdel, Middletown, Hazlet, Wall Township, Asbury park, Freehold, Tinton Falls and Ocean Township on a regular basis. We fully understand the stress and anxiety that most feel when they have been placed under arrest for a DWI and certainly when they have been charged criminally. If you would like to set up a free initial consultation today, please contact us at 732-858-6959 or you can try contacting us online.

Author: Keith G. Oliver

Founding partner Keith G. Oliver has a passion for helping people who are caught up in the criminal justice system. He believes that everyone has a right to be presumed innocent, and that one mistake shouldn’t define a person forever. This passion drives Mr. Oliver to tirelessly fight for his clients and pursue the best possible outcome in every case.