For anyone who has never been charged with drunk driving there are many aspects of a DWI arrest that can be surprising and even shocking for "first-timers." As New Jersey drunken driving defense lawyers, I and my colleagues understand the fear and concern that goes along with a first-time DWI or drug DUI arrest. In fact, even before a driver is pulled over for a traffic violation, it is very possible that the officer in charge was already making mental notes about a motorist's driving behavior.
This is important to realize, since some individuals who are accused of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of beer, wine or hard liquor may not consider all the possible evidence they may be faced with during their drunken driving hearing. Getting together with a qualified DWI defense attorney is critical when attempting to assess one's options going into a DWI or drug DUI trial.
Not only will an officer be asked by the prosecuting attorney regarding a driver's vehicle operation before the traffic stop, but any information that a motorist offers up or provides during a roadside interview will likely be used as evidence when pursuing a guilty verdict in the courtroom. What many drivers don't realize is even those "minor" or inconsequential comments that one makes during a police stop can be used by the prosecution to make its case against a defendant.
Of the many a varied types of evidence that police and municipal prosecutors use to bolster the state's case against a driver accused of DWI includes the following:
-- The moving violations lodged against a driver at the time of the DWI arrest, such as excessive speed, improper lane change or running a stop sign can all be brought up as evidence. Even an improperly displayed vehicle license plate or a burned-out headlamp.
-- The way in which the motorists presents his vehicle registration, insurance certificate or driver's license may be noted by the officer and brought up during a court hearing. Something as simple as accidentally dropping a piece of documentation might be used by the prosecution as evidence of impairment, even if you believe it was due to nervousness.
-- One's actions before, during and after being asked to perform one or more of the standardized field sobriety tests. These include a driver's ability to execute these tests, such as the horizontal gaze nystagmus, single-leg stand and walk-and-turn to the officer's satisfaction.
There are many other points to remember, which an experienced New Jersey DWI defense lawyer will be able to explain. And, for those who believe that being stopped for a traffic violation and ending up accused of drunken driving is something that can't happen to them, here are a couple news briefs involving DWI-DUI arrests in Morris and Union counties. One took place in mid-January over in Madison, NJ, including an allegedly intoxicated 59-year-old Forham Park resident who was reportedly observed entering his car with "intent" to drive.
The man was apparently found by officers sitting in his vehicle's driver's seat with the keys in the car's ignition switch and the engine reportedly running. This, combined with the patrolmen's detection of the smell of alcohol on the driver's person, was apparently enough to result in charges of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated by alcohol, as well as DWI within 1000 feet of a school zone.
In another DWI-related story, seven individuals were charged with driving while intoxicated when they were stopped by police at a Roselle Park sobriety checkpoint this past December in Union County. According to news reports, the DWI roadblock was being operated on a Friday and resulted in a handful of vehicles being impounded after their owners were arrested for a variety of traffic violations.
Based on news reports, 12 local police officers issued a total of 30 traffic summonses at that location during the course of the checkpoint's operation. News reports showed that 450 vehicles passed through the roadblock set up by the Roselle Park Police Department along a stretch of West Westfield Ave. near Gordon St. Those eight individuals joined the ranks of more than 100 other motorists who had been charged with drunken driving by the department up to that date in 2012.
Madison Police Blotter for January 15, 2013; TheAlternativePress.com; January 15, 2013
Seven charged with DWI at sobriety checkpoint in Roselle Park, NJ.com, December 31, 2012