Some people believe the myth that a DUI/DWI arrest is "no big deal." After all, New Jersey classifies them as traffic offenses instead of as crimes, so they can't be that bad, right? Simply put, this is quite wrong. Yes, New Jersey statutes separate DUI from such violent crimes as murder and assault, but this doesn't mean it isn't still a very serious offense.
A drunk driving conviction comes with a host of serious consequences, including jail time, large fines, social stigma and the costs associated with installation and maintenance of an ignition interlock device in some instances. Once convicted, you'll also have a lifelong offense on your driving record. It may not show up on a standard criminal background check, but it will definitely be visible if someone like a potential employer pulls your driving history.
Whenever you come into contact with the criminal justice system, it is important to protect your rights by having skilled legal counsel. A lawyer can:
- Help minimize the potential penalties you'll face (like those mentioned above and also secondary consequences like loss of a commercial driver's license, revocation of gun permits, and the jeopardizing of future opportunities)
- Help negotiate a reduction in charges or having them dropped altogether based on the evidence against you, the fallibility of testing, procedural violations during the arrest and more
- Give you advice and support throughout your case, making the entire process easier for you
An additional, unexpected benefit
Online car insurance comparison site QuoteWizard.com recently released a study that proves an additional, very important benefit to having an attorney handle your DUI case: substantial financial savings. It may seem counterintuitive, that hiring a lawyer can save you money, but the study proves otherwise.
Researchers sought insurance policy quotes from multiple companies for male and female hypothetical drivers (both with and without DUI records). The quotes received were also compared to the cost of negligent driving charges instead of DUI, which is comparable to "reckless driving" here in New Jersey.
A DUI/DWI conviction increases increase car insurance rates for an average of $830 per year for the first three years after arrest (totaling almost $2,500). Compare this to the more modest increase of about $330 per year for reckless driving. If an attorney can negotiate a reduction in charges, you'll automatically save about $1,500 over the course of three years.
Other costs, including having to install an ignition interlock device after a conviction, having to pay for alternative transportation, court fees, fines and more can total thousands more. QuoteWizard research estimates that the savings from a DUI defense lawyer total about $4,000 or more for a first-offense. Since potential costs go up exponentially for second, third or fourth DUI/DWI charges, the potential savings are higher for those as well.