Drunk Driving Update: Defining Impairment for New Jersey Motorists

In the state of New Jersey, the determination of whether a motorist is driving while impaired driving, at least as it pertains to alcohol use, involves a measurement of the suspect’s blood alcohol content (BAC). As a New Jersey drunk driving defense attorney, and former municipal prosecutor, I have handled all manner of drunken driving cases throughout my career. The establishment of a defendant’s BAC plays is a major role in any drunken driving case.

Strictly speaking, the law states that if an individual who is the operator of a car, truck, SUV or other motor vehicle is found to have a BAC of 0.08 percent or more, that person is guilty of drunk driving, also known as driving under the influence of alcohol, or more commonly, driving while intoxicated (DWI).

The term BAC refers to the amount of alcohol in a driver’s bloodstream. An important point to remember is that although the law makes reference to 0.08 percent BAC as the legal limit, one can still be convicted of drunk driving even if his or her BAC is below 0.08 percent.

It has been proven that consumption of even small amounts of alcohol will dull an individual’s senses, decreasing reaction time and hampering judgment. Vision and mental alertness are also affected to some degree as well. If you consume any amount of alcohol and your driving is affected, you can be convicted of driving while intoxicated in a court of law.

Not surprisingly, it is also a violation of the law if a person operates a motor vehicle under the influence of a narcotic, hallucinogenic or habit producing drug. Motorists can also be convicted for allowing another person to operate a motor vehicle when that person does so in violation of the driving while intoxicated (DWI) law.

Most every New Jersey police department or law enforcement agency relies on breathalyzers to provide the evidence of a suspected drunk driver’s blood alcohol concentration. However, there are occasions when police will look to obtain this critical DWI evidence through a sampling of the defendant’s own blood. The extraction of a blood sample from the body of a suspected drunk driver will usually occur under the following instances:

  • Defendant has been injured (police blood samples and/or hospital blood samples)
  • Suspect refuses to provide a breath sample
  • Defendant’s BAC is dangerously high
  • Defendant’s BAC is unexpectedly low (due to suspected narcotic involvement)