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Levels of Penalties for DUI/DWI Charges in New Jersey

Interviewer: Can you get my charges dropped or knock down to a lesser offense? How about the fines and penalties?

Ron Mondello: The DWI and DUI laws in New Jersey and their policy guidelines have become more, and more harsh and severe than ever before. Many years ago a defense attorney could plea-bargain a DWI to a lesser offense. Today, there is a prohibition against plea bargaining a DWI or DUI. Somewhat ironically, if you were to come to my office for a consultation on a murder charge I could speak to you about a potential plea-bargain. If you were to come to my office charged with a New Jersey DWI or New Jersey DUI I could not discuss the possibility of a plea bargain because there is none. So we can plea-bargain a murder but we can’t plea-bargain a DWI. This makes no sense whatsoever but that is the state of affairs here in New Jersey. So once you are charged with a DWI or DUI there will be no plea bargaining.

There will be no possibility of having the charges knocked down. A defendant either pleads guilty to the charges or has a trial. However, should competent defense attorney find some deficiencies in the case that are very compelling to the prosecutor there may be a dismissal of the DWI and a plea to one of the other tickets that you may have received during your DWI stop. Your DWI attorney can and will have some flexibility based on the equities of your case to reduce the fine and penalties as well as the license suspension.

Interviewer: What level of success have you had in either getting charges, fines, jail time, or other punishments reduced?

Ron Mondello: The probability of having a New Jersey DWI or New Jersey DUI dismissed out right is not very high assuming no blatant mistakes on the part of the police department. Any attorney that boasts an extremely high success rate of having New Jersey DWI or New Jersey DUI’s dismissed must be questioned at length. In fact, if I was a potential client of that attorney who has indicated to me that most of his New Jersey DWI or New Jersey DUI cases are dismissed, I would promptly offer to pay five times his retainer if my charges do get dismissed and zero dollars if they do not. It is of course unethical for a criminal or Municipal Court attorney to base his fee on an outcome.

Having said that, I have had an extremely high success rate with reducing fines or jail time and other punishments associated with New Jersey DWI in New Jersey DUI. One example that continues to resonate with me was a very successful businessman who had three prior DWIs and was now facing a fourth DWI. Although the facts to defend the fourth DWI were not in the defendant’s favor, and we subsequently pled guilty to that fourth DWI. I was, however, able to reopen two of his prior DWIs for the sole purpose of making sure he would not have to face a mandatory six months in jail as a result of a third or subsequent DWI. I recall the judge saying Mr. Mondello this was a Herculean effort on your part.

Alternative Punishments for DUI/DWI Offense in New Jersey

Interviewer: Are there alternative punishments or diversion programs available for first-time DUI or DWI offenders such as home detention with ankle bracelets, community service, ignition interlocks? How do I qualify and avoid jail time?

Ron Mondello: Unfortunately, I have seen over the last 20 years more and more of these alternative punishments being eliminated one by one. If you are convicted of a third or subsequent DWI in New Jersey you are facing a mandatory six months in jail. You cannot serve that sentence using an ankle bracelet, or on weekends or through community service. You must serve a minimum of 90 days in the County jail and if you have sufficient financial resources you may serve the remaining 90 days in an inpatient alcohol and drug approved treatment center.

Interviewer: Should I expect to be treated fairly by the court, or is the fact that I am charged with a New Jersey DWI or New Jersey DUI mean “I’m the devil incarnate”?

Ron Mondello: Please understand that defendants, municipal judges, municipal prosecutors and defense attorneys all have very differing personalities as represented by the human race. You may encounter one municipal court judge who is extremely patient, kind and compassionate while others simply may not have that type of personality. Based on my experience over the last two decades, I have found most Municipal Court judges and most prosecutors to be very fair.