Two New Jersey municipal judges arrested for drunk driving were recently disciplined by the state supreme court. One of the judges, Peter Tourison, received a more serious sanction because his DWI offense included property damage from a collision, as well as an effort to interfere with the results of the Alcotest breath testing machine.
On Tuesday, June 2, the New Jersey Supreme Court censured Judge Tourison, who presides over the municipal courts in Stone Harbor, Cape May and Middle Township, for the arrest precipitated by his public intoxication. The court also reprimanded Judge Robert Jones, of Livingston. Under a new policy adopted by the Court, judges convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol are disqualified for one year from presiding over DWI cases.
Tourison, arrested in early 2008, was stopped by police after he allegedly drove his BMW against the flow of traffic on Bayshore Road in Lower Township. He reportedly forced another driver to swerve his car onto the shoulder and then ended up in a Wawa parking lot where he ran into a parked Ford Explorer. The arresting officer stated that he detected the odor of alcohol on Tourison, who claimed he had consumed only two drinks, but then failed most of the field sobriety tests.
It seems that there has been a spate of driving DWI arrests for police and judges this year, which is disappointing because these individuals are supposed to protect the public, not endanger us. Judges in particular should know better. They not only see the results of drunk driving in their courtrooms, but they also issue judgments and sentences for those found guilty.
As a New Jersey drunk driving defense attorney, I have successfully defended many clients against DWI and refusal charges. Judge Tourison used several different techniques to delay the administering of the breath test and possibly alter the results. He applied lip balm prior to the test, which by law forced the officer in charge to wait 20 minutes before proceeding with the test. Tourison also placing a penny in his mouth apparently hoping that the metal would further affect the results of the Alcotest device.
The final breath test reading was 0.08, the threshold for intoxication, to which Tourison pleaded guilty and was fined $400. For his efforts, he caught the attention of the state Supreme Court, who found him in violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct, specifically that a judge must act in a manner that promotes public confidence in the judiciary, and conduct extrajudicial activities in a manner that does not demean the judicial office.
Penny-Popping N.J. Judge Disciplined for DWI, Law.com, June 4, 2009