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Tough Choices for Those Charged with Multiple DWI's

DWI cases in New Jersey are tough enough to defend, but they can become even more so when a client picks up a second DWI while the first (or second) is pending.

With a first offense, the criminal defense attorney has a chance to work some real magic for the client. We examine the probably cause for the stop, the administration of the Field Sobriety Tests and the administration and proper functionality of the Alcotest machine. I always retain the services of an expert witness to review the discovery and hopefully opine as to some mistake made by the police in giving the Alcotest or the functionality of the device. It is sometimes possible to have a defedant's Alcotest readings kept out of the case if there is an error in administration of these test or if the machine wasn't functioning properly. Without Alcotest results, a defendant can only lose their license for a maximum of 90 days.

With a second offense however, all bets are off because the suspension period is two years, regardless of how the defendant is convicted. The state can prove a defendant was impaired either with Alcotest results, or the defendant's performance on the Field Sobriety Tests. Therefore, even if a criminal defense attorney is able to keep the readings out of the case, the state can still obtain a conviction withe the Field Sobriety Tests. The difference now is that the law mandates that second offender lose their license for two years. Period, end of story. The judge and the prosecutor have no leeway on the suspension time.

My general strategy with second offense is to simply go to trial. The client has nothing to lose because the result, a two year license loss, is the same whether they plead guilty or are convicted at trial. Trials are unpredictable: police and prosecutors make mistakes or don't show up for court.

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