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Should a NY resident get a NJ lawyer for NJ drunk driving arrest? Is going with a public defender a bad idea?

South Brunswick, NJ |

My friend is distraught after being arrested for drunk driving in NJ last week with her child in the car. She's 41 and it's her first offense. However, she refused a breathalyzer test during her blackout, which she was shocked to hear when she sobered up. And it's infinitely worse (a felony in NJ?) with a child in the vehicle. She feels extremely fortunate that nothing worse happened. Her child or someone else could easily have been killed.

She's been trying to find a good rehab facility for a long time (with emails to prove it), but without insurance can't find one. If she borrows money and goes now, will trial be postponed till she's out?

Should she retain a NY lawyer or go with a NJ lawyer?
What record do public defenders have vs. paid lawyers?
Could she go to prison?

Thank you!

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Attorney answers 8


She needs a New Jersey lawyer. The law is different in New York and New Jersey, and even a ny lawyer who is licensed in nj does not practice in nj regularly. She is charges with endangering the welfare of a child, which is the felony, and dwi. They are both serious charges. Public defenders are very busy and don't have the time to pay attention to a case like this from the beginning.


You need to hire a NJ criminal defense attorney

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She should absolutely retain counsel immediately. If she cannot afford a private attorney, she should apply for the Public Defender. No matter what, she should not go this alone. There is no reason to retain a New York attorney for this New Jersey offense and yes is facing jail time, but depending on the actual facts of the case, that jail sentence may not be imposed.

I would tell your friend that she could start her search for a private attorney using the Find A Lawyer tab on

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As my colleagues have all advised, you need to retain a lawyer that has significant experience handling indictable DWI matters in New Jersey. Public defenders are capable lawyers handling large caseloads and may not be able to provide the individualized attention that a case like this requires and may not be able to retain necessary experts to assist at trial. They may also not have experience with the scientific and case law defenses to a Dwi or refusal case as they more typically take place in the municipal courts. Given the consequences of a conviction, you should be retaining private counsel.


She needs an NJ attorney. The child charge is a DP not a "crime" (NJ does not have felonies). Jail is not likely but possible. The refusal makes a defense difficult. She needs an attorney.


Definitely a NJ attorney.

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Won't go to Jail. Hire an NJ lawyer.


First, she should retain a New Jersey lawyer. If she cannot afford one, she should apply for the public defender. Next, she should do what she needs to in order to get help and maintain her sobriety. If she cannot stay sober, the rest does not matter. As an added bonus, the Court will likely view her proactively getting treatment as a positive. She has exposure to Jail, but the imposition of jail time will depend on the facts and circumstances of the case as well as the Judge.