In many states, first-time DUI offenders can participate in diversionary programs that allow them to avoid the harsh penalties of a conviction and keep their records clean. While New Jersey does have diversion programs - such as the Pre-Trial Intervention Program ("PTI"), the Conditional Discharge Program and the Conditional Dismissal Program - for certain offenses, none of these programs apply to DUI. However, that does not mean your case is hopeless.
Prosecutors do have the ability to reduce the severity of your DUI charge - This is often referred to as a "tier drop." For example, if you were charged with drunk driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .10, the prosecution may reduce your charge to DUI with BAC of .08, which results in slightly lower fines and a lower duration for license suspension.
When do prosecutors reduce charges?
There is no set guideline laying out when a charge may be reduced to a lesser offense. Instead, it is left up to "prosecutorial discretion."This means that the prosecutor who is handling your case gets to decide, based on the facts and circumstances, whether he or she feels you deserve a reduction in charges.
This is why it is extremely important to work with a skilled criminal defense attorney. A lawyer will know the types of scenarios that typically result in a reduced charge and will be able to frame the facts of your case in the best manner possible.
There are other things you can do to increase your chances at a reduced charge. For example, joining AA or another alcohol education course shows prosecutors you are taking proactive steps to manage your drinking and prevent any future drunk driving incidents. Your attorney will review the facts of your case and advise you on the best approach.