A case involving alleged driving while intoxicated (DWI) can have many possible outcomes, ranging from the dismissal of all charges to a conviction after a trial before a municipal court judge. Even then, a defendant might still have the right to appeal or to seek post-conviction relief. Like any kind of court proceeding, few DWI cases ever go to trial. Many DWI cases, perhaps most, result in pleas or plea agreements of some kind. New Jersey law limits the use of plea agreements in DWI cases, but a knowledgeable DWI attorney can advise their clients about whether a plea would be a good idea. One type of plea that is available in New Jersey DWI cases, the conditional guilty plea, enables a defendant to appeal certain decisions made by a municipal court before trial.
Prosecutors have the burden of proving that a defendant is guilty of each element of the offense of DWI. State law defines DWI as operating a motor vehicle either (1) while under the influence of alcohol or drugs or (2) with blood alcohol content (BAC) of at least 0.08 percent. Chemical testing of a DWI suspect’s breath, blood, or urine can determine their BAC. Even without chemical test results, a prosecutor can establish that a defendant was impaired with eyewitness testimony from police officers and expert testimony from drug recognition experts.
Defending against a DWI charge could involve challenging any part of the state’s case. A DWI lawyer might, for example, challenge the validity of the initial traffic stop. If the police officer did not have reasonable suspicion of any sort of traffic violation, then the stop violated the defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights. The court should suppress any evidence obtained as a result of the unlawful traffic stop. A successful motion to suppress based on an unlawful traffic stop often results in dismissal of the case, since it would leave the state with very little evidence. A defendant and their attorney could also move to suppress evidence based on other violations of their rights, such as breath test results from an Alcotest device that was not in compliance with state law.