Interviewer: In New Jersey, is DWI a criminal offense, or is it some other type of offense?
DWI Is Classified as a Traffic Violation in New Jersey
Ron Mondello: It’s not, in New York it is but in New Jersey it is a traffic violation. It’s not a criminal offense. However, for foreign nationals, DWIs are becoming more and more problematic. In fact, there’s some proposed legislation that if you are a foreign national and you’ve got three DWIs, you get put in deportation proceedings.
Though Not a Criminal Offense, a DWI Charge Is a Serious Matter and Requires Legal Representation to Avoid Long-Term Consequences
But, in New Jersey, it’s not even qualified as criminal offense. It’s simply a traffic violation, but that doesn’t mean that somebody should not vigorously defend against. I tell all my DWI clients that they would be very foolish to simply go in and plead guilty.
Yes, most of the cases don’t go to trial; most of the cases do result in a guilty plea, but there are so many pieces of evidence that should be evaluated. An attorney’s going to obtain and examine the Alco-test records. Here’s a perfect example. There must be two minutes between the first and the second breath sample that you gave the police officer. If there isn’t, I’ve gotten results excluded, just based on that. That’s just one of dozens and dozens of other pieces of evidence that should be looked into.
It’s well worth a defendant’s money to hire an attorney to represent them in a DWI case. The fees are reasonable.
If Charged with a DWI, You Are Entitled to a Public Defender in New Jersey
Interviewer: You said it’s not a criminal offense, so are you not entitled to a public defender?
Ron Mondello: You are entitled to a public defender, because in New Jersey, you’re entitled to a public defender if the charge can result in a consequence of magnitude. The New Jersey courts have ruled that losing your driver’s license is a situation where it’s one of consequensive magnitude.
Is a Public Defender the Option to Defend a DWI Charge?
Interviewer: Do the public defenders in New Jersey carry heavy caseloads?
Ron Mondello: Again, it varies from town to town, from public defender to public defender. The obvious answer is if a public defender has 14 DWIs that evening, how much time can he spend on every single one of them? There are some very good public defenders, but the old saying, “You get what you paid for,” most public defenders, they don’t get paid by the defendant, they get paid by the court.
To Obtain the Best Outcome, it Is Necessary to Devote Hours of Research to Build a DWI Defense
There’s varying schematics or plans on how they get paid from on a per case basis to a flat salary per year, but typically a defendant pays about $200 to have the public defender represent them on a DWI case.
A Private Attorney Has Both the Time and Resources to Devote Individual Attention to a DWI Defense
Most DWI attorneys, the minimum that they can charge is between $1000 up to $2500 because you really need to spend quite a few hours sifting through all of the discovery, from the police report as to why were you stopped, to whether or not the simulator solution expired. That type of intensive work is difficult if you’ve got a lot of cases and you’ve got to go through that state’s evidence rather quickly, versus a private attorney who’s been hired to spend the time on those cases.