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Are there downsides to seeking probation instead of a conviction?

It may go without saying that an experienced criminal defense lawyer can be a great asset to anyone facing drunk driving charges. However, a recent article reminds us that a lawyer’s services may continue even after navigating through the criminal trial.

Specifically, a recent woman’s account provides a sobering perspective. The woman was arrested on a drunk driving charge. However, since it was a first offense and she had no points for bad driving on her license, she was able to qualify for a probation program. In exchange for her guilty plea, the 18-month program allowed her to avoid a conviction.

However, the woman found that the alleged probation violations ended up costing her thousands of dollars in court fees and lost wages. One such court appearance was required because the woman did not ask permission before moving into a different unit in the very same apartment building complex. When the woman was eventually unable to meet a $2,500 bail payment, she had to serve over a month in jail. 

The story illustrates the importance of discussing all sentencing or punishment options with an attorney. For a first-time driving under the influence conviction in New Jersey, an offender may not incur jail time. According to the website maintained by the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General’s Division of Highway Traffic Safety, the penalties for a first offense for a drunk driving conviction with a blood alcohol content less than 0.10 percent may one or more enumerated punishments.

The penalties include: an administrative penalty, such as license suspension; a fine between $250 and $400; imprisonment for up to 30 days; hours in an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center; and an automobile insurance surcharge. An attorney can help an accused understand these penalties and advocate for the best outcome while preparing a strong criminal defense.

Source: The New York Times, “Probation May Sound Light, but Punishments Can Land Hard,” Shaila Dewan, Aug. 2, 2015

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