As we have noted in previous posts, New Jersey drunk driving law differs somewhat from other states. Authorities consider first offenses traffic violations. Even so, penalties can be significant. To warrant a felony charge, the elements of the crime must be much more severe.
Anyone charged with DUI at any level needs to take the matter seriously. Being charged with felony DUI means possibly lengthy prison terms and huge fines. If the judge orders time behind bars upon a defendant’s conviction, the law calls for serving at least 85 percent of the term before the person is eligible for parole.
One situation that could trigger a felony DWI charge is when a resulting accident leads to someone’s death. Typically, the charge brought is one of death by auto. The theory behind the charge is that the driver was impaired by drugs or alcohol at the time and that this behavior represented a reckless or conscious disregard, causing a fatality.
In New Jersey, felony DUI or DWI is considered a second-degree offense. Being convicted can land a person in state prison for five to 10 years. A fine of up to $150,000 is possible. Loved ones of the person killed in such a crash could also seek compensation and restitution through a civil suit for wrongful death.
If some element of the crash involves a school, such as if it occurs in a school crossing or on school property, the penalties escalate.
No one disputes that it’s best to never drink and drive. However, upon facing such a charge, it’s important to remember that you have a right to a presumption of innocence until proven guilty. So contact an attorney.