When you are charged with a DWI, the court takes into account all the aspects of your case. This includes whether or not others were harmed or injured as a result of you driving under the influence. If you are charged with a DWI and it is found someone was injured by your actions, this will drastically change the entire case against.
First, instead of just being charged with a DWI, you can now be charged with a felony level criminal charge. In the state of New Jersey, a DWI charge is not a criminal charge. Therefore, if you are charged with a DWI it does not go on your criminal record. Instead, it stays on your driving record. Meaning a DWI will not affect background checks or things of that nature. However, if someone was injured as a result of you driving under the influence, you can now be charged with a criminal crime which will affect your criminal record if convicted.
Second, the case goes for a local level to a county level court. The case will be studied by the county prosecutor and will most likely be heard at the county court level as opposed to the local municipality where the arrest occurred. The goal of the county prosecutor’s office is to understand your case and the allegations and the injuries sustained in the accident in order to determine whether to keep the case at the county level or to return the case to the municipal level. If the prosecutor decides to keep your case at the county level then the case will be treated as a felony case. If it is returned to municipal court then the prosecutor has declined to file the case as a felony.
If your case is held at the county level, the potential penalties are much higher. If you are commit Assault by Auto while in violation of the DWI or Refusal statute and someone sustains serious bodily injuries this is considered a third degree crime. This crime is punishable with a prison term of up to five years.
Assault by Auto combine with violation of the DWI or Refusal statutes is increased to a second degree crime when the violation occurs in a school zone or school crossing area, and serious bodily injury results. This crime has a maximum prison sentence of ten years.
If there was an accident but no injuries resulted, then the charges will stay at the municipal level. If convicted of a DWI or Refusal charge and accident occurred with no juries, the accident can be used in determining sentencing. The judge uses a range of penalties to determine sentencing. these penalties can include fines, license suspension and time in jail.