Beyond a Reasonable Doubt in a NJ DWI Case

In a New Jersey DWI case, the prosecutor must prove - beyond a reasonable doubt - that a driver operated a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or a prohibited drug.

This proof is both as to the breath alcohol or blood alcohol, or the "per se" charge, and the overall physical case against the driver. If the prosecutor is successful in proving either aspect of a DWI or DUI charge - beyond a reasonable doubt, then the driver will be found guilty of the DWI / DUI charge.

Beyond a reasonable doubt is subjective, and its meaning is different to different judges. If reasonable doubt as to the driver's guilt exists in the judge's mind, then the charges are not proven sufficiently to result in a conviction.

While the defendant has no burden of proof at all and doesn't have to show any proof as to his or her innocence or that he or she is not guilty, realistically, it has to be demonstrated that the evidence against the driver does not establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

It is therefore important to hire a qualified New Jersey DWI attorney to marshal all of the information and evidence to be able to give the police officer, prosecutor and judge reasons to find the driver not guilty of the NJ DWI.

On a first alleged offense, if the breath or blood result is excluded from evidence, but if the physical charge of DWI is proven, then a "tier 1" verdict results, with a three month suspension of New Jersey driving privileges. If the physical case is also not proven, then a not guilty finding results. However, if the breath/blood result is not excluded, then a seven to twelve month suspension is imposed, along with fines and assessments in court of about $700.00, and out of court surcharges and collateral costs that range from $6,000.00 to a multiple of that amount. Two days must be served in the IDRC - the Intoxicated Driver's Resource Center, which consists of two days of alcohol classes. If the breath/blood reading is not excluded, and it is 0.15% or greater, an ignition interlock device must be installed on the car primarily operated by the convicted driver for the suspension period of seven to twelve months, and for six to twelve months after the license is restored. Convictions on refusal to submit to testing also results in imposition of the interlock. While jail is possible under the statute, up to 30 days, it is unlikely that a first alleged offender will go to jail, without injury to another person. All of these penalties double if the offense occurs in a school zone.

On a second alleged offense, to have success, the breath/blood result must be excluded from evidence, and the physical case must establish that the driver is not guilty of DWI. If either the breath/blood result or the physical case are proven beyond a reasonable doubt, then the result is a two year loss of New Jersey driving privileges, fines and assessments in court of about $1,000.00, and out of court surcharges and collateral costs that range from $6,000.00 to a multiple of that amount. An ignition interlock device must be installed in the vehicle primarily operated by the convicted driver during the two year suspension period, and for one to three years after the license is restored. The driver must serve 48 hours in the IDRC, and additional alcohol counseling may be ordered by the IDRC. The driver must also perform 180 hours of community service. A jail term of two to ninety days is mandatory. Some courts require actual jail time, and others allow for the minimum two day jail term to be served concurrently, or at the same time, as the IDRC component.

On a third or greater alleged offense, again, the breath/blood result must be excluded from evidence, and the physical case must establish that the driver is not guilty of DWI. If either the breath/blood result or the physical case are proven beyond a reasonable doubt, then the result is a ten year loss of New Jersey driving privileges, fines and assessments in court of about $1,400.00, and out of court surcharges and collateral costs that range from $7,500.00 to a multiple of that amount. An ignition interlock device must be installed in the vehicle primarily operated by the convicted driver during the ten year suspension period, and for one to three years after the license is restored. The driver must serve 12 hours in the IDRC, and additional alcohol counseling is likely to be ordered by the IDRC. A mandatory jail term of one hundred eighty days is mandatory. The only way jail can be avoided is by going through the prior convictions and obtaining "Post Conviction Relief" in the courts where the driver was originally convicted for one or more of the prior offenses.