Impact a NJ DUI Can Have on Your Future
It’s important to understanding how being convicted of a DWI can impact future jobs, student financial aid, child custody & your divorce in New Jersey.
With some of the harshest DUI/DWI laws on the books, individuals in New Jersey who drive under the influence and are commercial drivers, underage drinkers, professionals with legal or medical licenses, college students on financial aid, or parents going through a contentious divorce or child custody battle, must only consider the short term consequences. Being convicted of driving while intoxicated or impaired by drugs can extend far beyond the initially steep penalties, temporary loss of driving privileges, higher insurance premiums, court-mandated community service, and intoxicated driver resource center education program.
Under N.J.S.A. 39:4-50 (Driving While Intoxicated), there is no difference between a DWI and DUI in New Jersey, so the two terms are used interchangeably during prosecution and sentencing. A DUI/DWI is “quasi-criminal” and not considered a crime per se, but a “traffic offense.” This means:
- you are not entitled to a jury trial, and
- DUI/DWI convictions are not eligible for expungement.
What lurks in the not so distant future for individuals who may be charged or convicted, which a knowledgeable DUI/DWI attorney can help you better understand, is that a DUI conviction becomes part of your history that can pose a significant barrier adversely impacting your professional and social life. Potential employers seeking information about your driving record may disqualify you from a job you are highly qualified for, particularly if you want to work in some transportation-related role. In the case of promising young students, they may lose their financial aid or college housing eligibility, or a divorced or separated parent may temporarily lose custody of their child through a Dodd removal.
Bad things can happen to good people. So despite how your odds seem in fighting a DUI charge, the intelligent thing is not to try to defend yourself against a DUI charge without the support of an experienced DUI/DWI lawyer who can help you understand your options and protect your rights.
Input from Family Court in Your Pending Divorce or Child Custody Case
Although there are various circumstances related to a DUI or DWI arrest when there is no child in the vehicle at the time, and the reason may be related to a bad reaction to your prescription medication, it still can lead to the family law court intervening. In reviewing the events, they could conclude that even though the parent arrested for the DUI did not have any children in the car on that day, they may have reason to believe that said parent probably behaved similarly and exercised poor judgment with kids inside the vehicle in the past.
A parent who gets one DUI may not have issues with prescription drugs or alcohol, but the court must consider the child’s safety and the child’s best interest. A court may also view such a charge as validating an earlier allegation of substance abuse from an ex-spouse. In high-conflict divorces or civil union dissolutions, an ex may seek to damage your reputation by highlighting the recent (or not so recent) arrest before the court, forcing you to fight tooth and nail to prove your child will be safe and happy in your custody.
Underage or College DWI/DUI Convictions & Impact on Aid Eligibility & Housing
To be eligible for federal student aid, you have to complete a “FAFSA” (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form. The FAFSA does not request or validate previous convictions for DUI; however, the application includes questions about whether you have ever been convicted of a drug offense. So, if you’re convicted of driving while intoxicated and the offense solely involves alcohol as opposed to drugs, then your financial aid eligibility will not be jeopardized.
If, however, you were stopped for driving under the influence of drugs and police find drugs in the car or had drugs in your possession, you may be ineligible to apply for federal aid for up to 2 years. In some cases, a student may be expelled from school or lose their housing eligibility. In addition, a DUI conviction can impact your ability to receive:
- college work-study,
- state grants,
- state loan programs,
- private student loans
If you are on campus at the time of your DUI, you may also be charged with underage drinking, having an open container, or being asleep in a parked car while intoxicated. However, the case will likely be handled at the municipal court level; losing one’s license for up to a year or having a vehicle impounded can impact one’s ability to travel home, work, or manage basic daily errands like shopping. Not to mention the towing, impound, and related storage fees. If the student charged with the DUI was also accused of a traffic violation, they could be facing additional charges and possible jail time or steeper penalties. If the car involved is not their own, then the car’s owner will have to contact the police to make arrangements to get their property back.
Importance of Licensed Professionals Retaining Experienced Legal Counsel if Charged With DWI
New Jersey is an “employment-at-will” state so that an employer can dismiss any employee at any time for any legal reason or for basically no reason at all. Therefore, those who maintain professional licenses, whether they are teachers, medical and legal professionals, or commercial drivers, cannot afford a DWI conviction.
The adverse consequences such individuals face can impact their career and reputation by having their license suspended or revoked based on the perception of behaving unprofessionally. In addition, as medical personnel is required to self-report, their board of professionals may choose to discipline or fire them. However, if they are found not guilty, or if the charge is dropped, an employer is unlikely to act against them. So retaining an experienced DWI defense attorney should be a top priority.
Contact a Linden NJ DWI Defense Attorney for Immediate Assistance
A drunk driving arrest does not have to mean a DUI/DWI conviction. New Jersey law prohibits plea bargains for DUI offenses, so attorneys experienced in DUI defense strategies can raise technical issues that may result in certain evidence being thrown out by the court, thus resulting in the dismissal of the DUI charge or possibly a conviction for a different offense that has fewer penalties.
When confronting charges for DWI or DUI in New Jersey, it is essential to have a complete understanding of the charges against you, the potential penalties associated with a conviction, and the collateral issues which may work to your advantage or undermine your chances for achieving a successful outcome. To speak with experienced DWI defense lawyer Edward S. Cooper, contact his offices anytime at (908) 481-4625.