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Why Do Attorneys Consider a DWI Charge a Quasi-Criminal Charge?

Interviewer: How can it be that you could have a possible jail consequence and yet it’s not criminal?

Lauren Scardella: It’s what is called quasi-criminal, which means you’re entitled to all the protections under the constitution that criminal defendants have: the right to counsel, the right to remain silent, you have double-jeopardy rights; you have all of those rights. You have the right to have your guilt proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

A DWI Conviction in New Jersey Will Not Result in Points on Your Driver’s License

It’s not criminal. It’s not under the criminal code. It’s really, in New Jersey, just a major traffic offense.

Interviewer: If you’re convicted of a DWI you won’t have a criminal record?

Lauren Scardella: Right. No criminal record from being convicted for a DWI in New Jersey.

What Is the Impact of a DWI on Your License in New Jersey?

Interviewer: From the moment you’re arrested what will happen to your driver’s license? What could happen?

New Jersey Does Not Suspend a Driver’s License until a DWI Conviction

Lauren Scardella: At the moment you’re arrested when you’re charged with a DWI, absolutely nothing happens to your driver’s license. Some states suspend it from the moment you’re charged. Not in New Jersey; your license in New Jersey is not suspended until you’re convicted.

Interviewer: How do people find out about license suspensions?

Lauren Scardella: One of the ways that they find out about license suspensions is in the standard statement which is read to them before they are asked to provide breath samples.

Drivers Are Instructed by Police That Refusing the Breath Test Will Result in a Suspension

It tells them that if they are convicted of refusing to provide breath samples their license could be suspended.

I think in general the way that people find out about the license suspensions is the Internet.

The police don’t tell them what the consequences are, other than when they’re reading that standard statement, but that really just tells them what the potential suspension is for Refusal. If they go to their first court appearance before hiring an attorney the judge tells them what the consequences are at their arraignment.

But many people do retain an attorney prior to actually having to appear in court, which means that first appearance is where they’re told what the consequences are is being waived.

Interviewer: So the license consequence is just if they get convicted they’ll have problems with their driver’s license?

Following a DWI Conviction the License Is suspended for a Length of Time Determined by the Judge; Before Driving, Motorists Must Pay a Restoration Fee When the Suspension Is up

Lauren Scardella: Exactly. Right, and once their license has been suspended it remains suspended for whatever period the judge imposes. And will actually remain suspended after that if they fail to pay the restoration fee to the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission.

There’s a toll essentially for getting your license back. You have to pay to get your name off of the revoked list.

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