April 12, 2014

Garden State Moving Closer to Mandatory Ignition Interlock Devices for all Convicted Offenders

While most people never imagine that they will be arrested and charged with driving under the influence, the fact remains that hundreds of drivers every week in New Jersey find themselves facing a charge of drunk driving, impaired operation of a motor vehicle due to prescription medications or illicit substances, or simply refusal to submit to a breathalyzer test. These days, with the rather stiff fines and other monetary penalties (not to mention possible jail time) that may come from a DWI-DUI conviction, it still amazes some people that so many DWI arrests actually take place on a daily basis.

For a great number of individuals who receive a drunken driving summons, the financial consequences are quickly learned, but there are also other penalties associated with a DWI conviction that do not always come quickly to mind. These include license suspension and the requirement of having an ignition interlock device (IID) installed on one's vehicle for a period of time following the end of the aforementioned suspension. The inconvenience and stigma attached to these other post-conviction penalties have their own effect on those who have already fell the sting of fines and auto insurance premium assessments.

For anyone unfamiliar with IIDs, these devices are designed to prevent a vehicle from being started if the driver's blood-alcohol content (BAC) exceeds 0.05 percent. Currently, in the case of first-time offenders, it is up to the court's discretion to order the use of an IID for six to 12 months following restoration of a driver's license. However, for those individuals convicted of DWI based on a BAC of 0.15 or greater, the law calls for mandatory installation of an IID during the license suspension period plus aforementioned six to 12 months following restoration of one's license.

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April 10, 2014

Middlesex County Drunk Driving News: Four Motorists Charged with DWI-DUI in Plainsboro, NJ

Regardless of the nature of an initial roadside police stop -- be it a burned-out headlamp, sliding through a controlled intersection without completely stopping, or drifting in and out of one's lane -- the opportunity for a drunk driving or drug DUI summons can go up appreciably depending on how the driver appears to the police officer in charge. Bloodshot eyes or an unsteady gait may cause a patrolman to suspect some kind of intoxication, though neither condition is a surefire sign of being drunk or impaired.

Despite what some people may believe, being charged for DWI-DUI based solely on watery eyes or some other vague observation is usually not sufficient to result in a conviction for driving while intoxicated; other evidence is needed beyond a more or less subjective assessment. Experienced DWI defense lawyers, such as the legal team at our law firm, can offer up a number of plausible explanations for a variety of conditions, from allergies and migraine headaches to very cold temperatures or high winds at the time of the arrest.

Since an arrest for DWI or drug DUI needs supporting evidence, as required by law, the prosecution will often attempt to prove that the defendant exhibited a "substantial deterioration or diminution" of his or her mental faculties/physical capabilities due to alcohol or hallucinogenic, narcotic or habit-producing drugs.

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April 8, 2014

Bergen County DWI Defense: Don't Fool Yourself, a DUI License Suspensions Means No Driving. Period

Here in the Garden State, penalties for driving while intoxicated are nothing to sneeze at, even for first-time offenders. For those individuals who have never before run afoul of the law, the realization that a conviction for DWI can eventually run into the thousands of dollars (when considering the fines, court fees, assessments and hiked-up auto insurance premiums required by law). Depending on the facts of the case, most especially the level of alcohol in one's bloodstream, fines themselves can range from $250 to $500, with jail time also a possibility.

As New Jersey drunken driving defense attorneys, my colleagues and I have a great deal of experience in representing those motorists who have been accused of intoxicated driving or drug DUI, the latter of which can range from impairment due to taking doctor-prescribed medications to ingesting an illegal controlled dangerous substance (CDS), such as cocaine, meth, marijuana or some other narcotic drug.

License suspension is also a common consequence of a DWI or drug DUI conviction. For professional drivers this can mean the loss of a job or a serious change in one's employment circumstances. But what many people don't realize, at least when they first get arrested and charged with driving under the influence, is that there are currently no alternatives to having one's operator's license revoked or suspended. If the thought doesn't enter the mind of a convicted DWI offender, the first time he or she needs to get somewhere will be a stark reminder of the severe consequences provided by the state.

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April 7, 2014

Intoxication Can Affect a Driver's Awareness, Cause a Driving Error, and Trigger a Police Stop

We've discussed this in previous posts, but it bears repeating once again: The police do not have the legal right to stop a motorist simply because an officer assumes or guesses that the individual behind the wheel is possibly intoxicated. This goes back to the basic New Jersey DWI statutes, which state that a law enforcement officer must have a reasonable and articulable suspicion that a driver has committed a moving violation or other vehicle infraction in order to make a traffic stop.

As New Jersey DWI defense lawyers, my legal team has a great deal of experience in this area. Quite often, motorists contact my firm with the intention of fighting a drunk driving summons or charges related to some other alcohol or drug-related traffic offense. As part of our investigation, we research the facts of the case in order to determine if there were any basic procedural violations on the patrolman's part. More than once we have found that an officer has made erroneous assumptions about the defendant or his driving style, which then led to a faulty or improper police stop and DWI arrest.

If it can be shown that the officer acted improperly or based the initial traffic stop on less-than-appropriate grounds, there is a good chance that the court will entertain a motion to have the drunk driving charge dismissed or the charges reduced. Unfortunately, many proper police stops come about due to a motorist's own driving error, which if observed by a municipal cop or state trooper, may result in a roadside stop. If alcohol is involved, there is high likelihood that a summons for driving under the influence will be issued.

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April 7, 2014

NJ Drunk Driving News: DWI-DUI Highlighted as Serious Concerns at Ocean County Event

Here in Bergen County, as with all the other areas of New Jersey, scores of drivers are picked up by police on a regular basis for offenses ranging from driving a motor vehicle while intoxicated by alcohol to operating a car or truck under the influence of a controlled dangerous substance (CDS). As drunken driving defense lawyers representing Garden State drivers charged with DWI or drug DUI, my team of experienced trial attorneys have almost 100 years of collective courtroom experience defending individuals accused of serious offenses such drunk driving to possession of illicit drugs in a motor vehicle.

As motorists ourselves, we fully understand the importance of maintaining a high level of safety on our public roads. To this end, we also know how hard many of New Jersey's state and local law enforcement officers work to keep our roadways free of hazards and dangerous situations. We commend the hard work of police all across the state, but we also know that police officers are human, just like everybody else, which means that they can make mistakes even though we expect perfection from them.

It goes without saying that the majority of officers and the agencies for which they work have a strong desire to help the community at large. This can be reflected in the campaigns against drunk driving and the public service announcement that are often seen and heard during high-risk periods such as the New Year's holiday, Memorial Day, Labor Day and even St. Patrick's Day.

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April 6, 2014

Monmouth County Police Blotter: Drunken Driving Arrests for Several Drivers in Middletown Area

Police officers in Middletown Twp. Had a busy week not long ago when they arrested and charged five individual drivers with operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. Without knowing the specific circumstances of each arrest, it is difficult to know how or why each of these drivers was served with a summons for DWI, however it is instructive to remind readers that being stopped on any Garden State roadway can open a person up to extreme scrutiny, especially if they in any way exhibit some key signs of impairment.

As New Jersey drunken driving defense lawyers, my colleagues and I understand the difficult position under which many otherwise law-abiding citizens are placed when they find themselves being questioned on the roadside by a local cop or state trooper. Odd as it may seem to some people, it is possible -- yet amazingly commonplace -- to see a motorist who is pulled over for one of many possible traffic infractions end up admitting, in short order, that he was drinking prior to the police stop.

Providing a police officer with an "admission of guilt" in whatever manner it happens, does not necessarily that the driver's statements can be used against him in court. An experienced DWI defense attorney, like those on the legal team in my firm, will know immediately to ask whether or not the driver was read his or her Miranda Rights prior to their supposed admission of guilt. Similarly, one should also consider whether or not the driver was informed of his right to remain silent. Depending on the situation, if the answer to these two questions was no on both counts, then there is reason to believe that the court may likely strike any admission of guilt from the record, since it was probably not obtained legally.

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April 4, 2014

Are There Any Advantages to Fighting a DWI Charge These Days? Yes, There Often Are

While few people who take the initiative and walk into our law offices ever ask the question, there are many more who may choose not to contact us based on some different answer to that same query. So, really, why should anyone bother trying to fight a drunk driving charge? Don't the police have the upper hand? Isn't it difficult to contest the validity of the prosecution's evidence? And how can the average person know where to start if he or she even entertains the idea of challenging a drunken driving charge?

As experienced New Jersey trial lawyers, we've seen enough DWI and drug DUI cases to know that unless an accused motorists does make that concerted effort to fight for his or her day in court, they will never know what could have been if they hadn't accepted a guilty plea and the penalty consequences that ultimately follow. By not choosing to fight a DWI, drug DUI, or breath test refusal charge, a person essentially places all the power in the hands of the police and the prosecutor's office.

At this point we will add that the consequences don't simply mean the fines and court fees, but they also entail insurance premium increases for years to come and the inevitable license suspension and all of the hassle and aggravation that can create. And let's not forget the ordering of an ignition interlock device to be installed on the accused's vehicle once his or her license is restores; that alone can prove to be embarrassing and inconvenient.

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April 2, 2014

New Jersey Law Enforcement's Pursuit of Drunken Drivers Unlikely to Abate

We see it quite frequently; the various anti-drunk driving campaigns accompanied by enhanced enforcement, such as saturation patrols during major holidays and late-night sobriety roadblocks on the weekends. In short, the apparent war on intoxicated motorists continues at a fairly regular and deliberate pace here in the Garden State. As New Jersey DWI and drug DUI defense attorneys, we know from experience that local police and state patrol officers take their roles very seriously when it comes to pursuing those drivers who may be inebriated behind the wheel.

Some drivers find themselves pulled over in the middle of traffic simply because they appeared to be wandering in their lane, when the reason could have been a minor distraction in the vehicle. Others might end up being flagged off the road at one of the many random roadside DWI checkpoints that seem to pop up at the most inopportune times. Regardless of the circumstances, however, if an office suspects a motorist to be even a slight bit drunk or otherwise impaired by alcohol or prescription drugs -- never mind illegal substances like marijuana or cocaine -- the gloves will come off an a much more intensive investigation will typically commence.

Of course, sometimes the police have reason to be suspicious of a driver's condition, much less his motivation to avoid being picked up by officers for whatever kind of offense. Considering the reputation that New Jersey's police have when drunk driving or drug DUI is involved, some people with a lot to lose will test the will of those law enforcement officers. Take the story of a Hamilton, NJ, driver who attempted to run from police following an alleged drunken driving accident along a portion of Interstate 95 last December.

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March 31, 2014

Could Avoiding a NJ Drunk Driving Arrest be as Simple as Watching How One Drives?

Some people would say that perception is everything these days. It certainly would seem to be based on advertising gimmicks and marketing strategies; but what about daily life? As Garden State drunk driving lawyers we have successfully defended motorists who have been accused of DWI, drug DUI, breath test refusal and other alcohol- and drug-related charges. Many of our clients were charged with impaired vehicle operation following what may have seemed like a routine traffic stop, though they ended completely differently than anyone imagined at the time.

The fact of the matter is a percentage of drivers who are charged with drunk or drug-impaired driving after being stopped by police find later that the reasons for the traffic stop in the first place were erroneous. This is one of the more common instances where the value of retaining a skilled DWI-DUI defense lawyer becomes quite clear. The question that one should typically ask following a drunk driving arrest is whether or not that initial traffic stop was made correctly and for reasonable cause.

It is a fact that here in New Jersey, before a policeman or state trooper can stop a vehicle and arrest the driver for DUI-DWI, that officer must have what we refer to in the legal profession as probable cause. Quite simply, probable cause can be considered as a "reason" to believe that a crime, such as driving drunk or under the influence of drugs, has been committed, and that the person they are detaining actually committed said crime.

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March 28, 2014

Jersey Drunk Driving Update: Odd Driver Behavior is a Red Flag for Police

Just like everyone else, police officers are human. And while patrolmen do have many special skills, as well as years of training in criminology and law enforcement, they are not psychics; however, they do know what to look for when it comes to human behavior on Garden State roadways. As DWI defense lawyers, the attorneys at my firm meet a near constant stream of people who have been charged with traffic infractions and other offenses. On the whole, few of these individuals ever expected to be awaiting a court date to determine whether or not they will be convicted of drinking and driving.

What most people do not realize -- at least not until it is too late -- is that local and state patrolmen have a keen eye for the telltale hints that a motorist may not be paying complete attention to the job of driving. Whether that sign is a poorly executed turn, driving noticeably below the posted speed limit or drifting repeatedly outside of one's lane, a seasoned officer can probably anticipate the outcome of many a routine traffic stop. Unfortunately for most drivers, what is a routine occurrence for a cop is hardly a typical experience for the average person.

There are a variety of strange activities and odd behaviors on the road that can garner a police officer's immediate attention and, in the process, get a driver in very hot water. Especially if an individual has had a drink or two prior to the traffic stop, which might leave the odor of alcohol on the driver's breath, there is a strong chance that the officer is going to suspect some kind of intoxication, at least initially. But, once again, it can often be some minor driving mistake that betrays a motorist and triggers a roadside police stop.

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March 26, 2014

Toms River DWI Blotter: Local Drivers Charged with Hit-and-Run, Drug Possession, and DWI

A Toms River resident was tracked down by police after witnesses apparently saw the man's late-model Toyota drive away from a car accident along a portion of Rte 37 early on a Monday morning. According to news reports, township patrolmen arrived at the scene of the crash, which took place at the intersection of Rte 37 and Garfield Ave. By the time officers had gotten to the accident site, the hit-and-run driver was already gone. The 6:30am wreck involved a Ford Explorer driven by a Bayville man, who was stopped at a red light when the impact occurred.

With the assistance of a witness to the incident, police searched for the hit-and-run driver, who was found shortly thereafter. Based on police reports, the man had apparently hit another vehicle as he fled the earlier crash scene. That collision took place near the intersection of Garfield and Delaware Ave., in the area of East Dover. Eventually, police were able to pull the man over near Fischer Blvd. and Windsor Ave., after which it was determined that the 31-year-old local resident was allegedly intoxicated behind the wheel.

As a result, the suspect was arrested and eventually charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, reckless driving and leaving the scene of an accident. The man was also reportedly charged with criminal possession of the drug Suboxone, for which he did not have a prescription. As Garden State DWI and drug DUI lawyers, my legal team has handled numerous cases involving drug DUI and possession. This particular instance is certainly a more complicated situation considering the two hit-and-runs.

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March 24, 2014

Somerset County DWI News: Local Woman Gets DWI Following 3-Car Crash in Bernards Twp.

As in many parts of the Garden State, police patrols in Somerset County, NJ, are always active on city streets, undivided highways and high-speed interstates. Whether one travels to and from work or school, going shopping or simply taking a driving vacation to the Jersey Shore for some needed R & R, the odds of coming into contact with a New Jersey State Police trooper or a local patrolman are usually quite high. As DWI defense lawyers, my colleagues and I have met dozens of average people who never thought they would ever be charged with a serious traffic offense, much less be arrested for drinking and driving.

Yet, every week, scores of Jersey residents and out-of-state drivers get pulled over for some minor infraction, opening themselves up to additional scrutiny from a law enforcement officer. A percentage of these individuals will be unlucky enough to have had something to drink in the hours prior to that traffic stop. Unfortunately, many of them will be taken into custody and charged with some kind of impaired driving offense. More and more, this group includes individuals who may be carrying some kind of illicit drug on their person, which can complicate matters when the time comes for court appearance.

Still others find themselves involved in a roadway collision. It's no secret that drinking and driving only increases the chances of a motorist being involved in a single- or multiple-car accident. If alcohol or drugs were involved, the ante is raised sufficiently to make speaking with a qualified DWI-DUI defense attorney not only a good idea, but almost a necessity. Being experienced trial lawyers, we understand that accidents do happen. And while we do not condone drinking and driving, we also know that some people accused of DWI-related collisions may not have been legally drunk at the time of the wreck.

Continue reading "Somerset County DWI News: Local Woman Gets DWI Following 3-Car Crash in Bernards Twp. " »

March 22, 2014

NJ Drunk Driving Defense Update: What Constitutes a Valid DWI Arrest?

We've discussed in prior postings the factors that lead to, and possibly precipitate, a drunken driving traffic stop. In actuality, the phrase DWI police stop is somewhat of a misnomer since a patrolman cannot, by law, base a traffic stop solely on a hunch or assumption that a motorist is intoxicated by alcohol or impaired by prescription drugs or some other controlled dangerous substance (CDS). On the contrary, an officer must have a valid and articulable reason -- such as a moving violation or vehicle-related infraction -- in order to legitimately pull a driver over. That aside, however, a traffic stop that develops into a DWI arrest involves a number of steps before drunk driving charges are pressed against a driver.

As experienced New Jersey trial attorneys with in-depth knowledge of drunk driving and drug DUI case law, our training and courtroom skill allow us to represent many individuals who have been accused of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence. As DWI lawyers, we often explain to potential clients that it is important to understand the basic factors that make up a good prosecutorial case for DWI or drug DUI; because, when it comes to arresting and charging a driver for intoxicated driving, the evidence collected at the time of the offense can make or break the state's case.

Whether or not a DWI-DUI arrest is viewed by a judge as having been carried out properly depends on the totality of facts presented by the state when pursuing a conviction following a drunk driving stop and arrest. First and foremost, there needs to be actual evidence of inebriation or impairment, regardless of the type of charge, be it a DWI based on alcohol consumption, or a drug DUI due use of prescription medications, smoking of marijuana, or use of some other illegal substance. The degree of intoxication must also have been sufficient for the court to conclude that the driver was impaired to the point of being unable to safely operate his or her vehicle.

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March 20, 2014

New Jersey Drug DUI Update: Intoxicated Driving Arrests Involving Marijuana Likely to Rise Over Time

With the legalization of medicinal marijuana already a reality in the Garden State, the use of pot to treat certain medical conditions opened up renewed concerns among law enforcement and traffic safety advocates. A great deal of the apprehension on the part of anti-marijuana advocates is the potential for an increase in cannabis-related traffic accidents. For now, the perceived threat is still somewhat low; however, with the increasing likelihood for eventual legalization of recreational marijuana, the worry in some sectors of the public, as well as our political leadership, is that weed will hit the mainstream sooner rather than later.

As a New Jersey DWI and drug DUI defense law firm, my legal staff understands how the potential future legalization of marijuana could have a serious impact on DUI enforcement. Never mind the possible benefits of bringing a much maligned illegal substance like pot to the same level as alcohol; many law enforcement experts suggest that the inherent dangers of "driving while high" could be just as bad or worse than DWI. That, of course, remains to be seen; in the meantime, however, possession of even a small amount of weed in a motor vehicle can result in some significant penalties.

New Jersey's legal statutes currently specify that the use of marijuana (under most any circumstances) is grounds for arrest. Being impaired by this currently controlled dangerous substance (CDS) while operating a motor vehicle is most definitely a chargeable offense; yet, many drivers arrested for possession in a motor vehicle don't realize that simply having pot on one's person while driving a car in New Jersey could mean the loss of driving privileges, as well as stiff fines. State law (N.J.S.A. 39:4-49.1) specifically prohibits any person from operating a motor vehicle while knowingly in possession of marijuana, it's just that simple.

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March 18, 2014

Hackensack Prosecutor Drops Serious Charges against Bergen County Woman Originally Suspected of Fatal DWI Accident

Last week, the Hackensack Municipal prosecutor's office dropped two key summonses previously lodged against a River Vale resident who was initially under suspicion of impaired driving after her vehicle struck and killed a well-known local business man last fall. According to news articles, the prosecution essentially cleared 63-year-old Kathleen Gehm of any wrongdoing in the tragic auto-pedestrian collision that resulted in the death of 87-year-old Jerome Some on the evening of October 8.

Based on court records, the DWI and reckless driving charges were dropped by Frank Catania Jr., municipal prosecutor for the city of Hackensack. The motion to dismiss, which was just recently filed, came months after the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office decided not to pursue criminal charges against Ms. Gehm following a negative toxicology report on blood taken from her after the deadly traffic accident. Those toxicology results were returned from the lab last December.

According to news reports, Gehm's lawyer stated that at the time of the incident his client was "extremely shaken up" and freezing as she stood in the cold evening air in sandals. This information was part of the defense's argument to the court as to why the woman allegedly failed two field sobriety tests requested of her by police officers at the scene of the crash. As a result of those failed tests, police asked the woman to take a breath test, to which she did consent in hopes of clearing herself of a DWI charge.

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