When a driver is stopped on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, a frequent problem that occurs after an investigation has been conducted is resisting arrest. While drivers might believe that they have certain rights when a DWI investigation and subsequent arrest are underway, it is not allowable for a driver to resist arrest.
Even if the driver truly believes that the arrest is unjustified or even illegal, resisting arrest will only result in making the situation worse. When it is clear that an officer is making the arrest, the best choice for the individual being arrested is to simply accept the fact and prepare for a defense. If the charges are not viable, then the defendant will be able to present a case at trial to win an acquittal.
Definition Of Resisting Arrest And Penalties
No matter the charges, DWI or anything else, if a person willfully tries to prevent a police officer from making an arrest, it is considered resisting arrest. This is a separate charge from the original charge that the officer was making the arrest for. So if a driver is charged with DWI and resists arrest, there will be the DWI charge and a disorderly persons charge added to the DWI traffic offense. A person who resists arrest can be fined up to $1,000 and face up to six months in jail.
If a person tries to run away from an officer who is attempting to make an arrest, this is known as eluding. It is a fourth degree criminal offense. With a conviction, the person will be fined up to $10,000 and be sent to prison for up to 18 months.
If a person threatens violence to avoid arrest and puts the officer in danger, it is a third degree criminal offense. This will result in a fine of up to $15,000 and between three and five years in prison.
Resisting A DWI Arrest
In the event that a law enforcement officer tries to make a traffic stop for suspicion of DWI or makes the stop and the driver takes off in the vehicle, it will be a third degree criminal offense. Drivers who consider this must understand that as harsh as the penalties for DWI can be, in New Jersey, it is still only a traffic offense. Adding resisting arrest by fleeing in a motor vehicle is a criminal offense that will make the problems exponentially worse. People who flee and put others in danger of injury or death will have the charges increased to a second degree crime. A conviction will lead to a fine of up to $150,000 and between five and ten years in jail.
The simple act of trying to escape an officer when a DWI stop is attempted leaves the driver in jeopardy of facing the harshest possible penalties when caught. Speeding away and eluding an officer directly implies that the escaping driver will violate major traffic laws and put others in danger. That will result in second degree charges.
DWI Penalties Make It Unwise To Resist Arrest
While innocent drivers who are stopped on suspicion of DWI will be frightened of the prospect of an improper arrest, the penalties are not so terrible that it’s worth it to run the risk of second, third or fourth degree criminal charges on top of the improper DWI charge. It must be remembered that a DWI charge is a traffic offense. It carries with it fines, surcharges and possible jail time and improper charges can be defended against in court.
For example, a first offense DWI with a blood alcohol content of between 0.08% and 0.10% will leave the driver facing the following penalties if convicted: 30 days in jail; a $250 to $400 fine; $100 each to the Alcohol Education and Rehabilitation Fund (AERF) and the Neighborhood Services Fund; $230 to the Intoxicated Driver Resource Center (IDRC); $75 to the Neighborhood Services Fund; and an annual surcharge of $1,000 per year for three years.
These can be worrisome to a driver who is arrested for DWI, but they’re nowhere near as life-changing as the above-listed penalties if there is a conviction of resisting arrest. With the inherent flexibility the officer and prosecutor will have if a driver takes off in his or her vehicle trying to avoid a DWI arrest, it is much more preferable to simply accept the DWI arrest than to do something that will affect the person forever.