NJ Drunk Driving Defense Update: New Jersey Appellate Court Upholds DWI Conviction per Chun

When fighting a drunken driving charge, a New Jersey DWI defense lawyer will use all of his experience to help his client get a fair trial. Since being arrested and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol is a serious offense with long-lasting and potentially detrimental effects on a person’s life and livelihood, a drunk driving attorney will use the law in an effort to achieve the most favorable outcome.

The court will usually consider the defense’s arguments and weigh those against that of the prosecution. A recent New Jersey appellate court decision (STATE V. UZUPIS) upheld one man’s appeal of a drunk driving conviction. The circumstances of the arrest appeared to be questionable, which is why the defense files an appeal.

According to the original case tried in an Atlantic County court, Luke J. Uzupis had been arrested after police found him sleeping in his running vehicle. At that time, a police officer spotted the man’s car parked at a closed gas station around midnight. The headlights were reportedly will on and the engine was running.

Police reported seeing the man lying back in the driver’s seat. He did not respond when the officer knocked on the window, after which the officer opened the door, shook Uzupis and woke him up. Detecting the odor of alcohol on the man’s breath, the officer reportedly heard the man say that he had been drinking.

Court records show that Uzupis did poorly on the field sobriety tests and when taken to police headquarters his blood-alcohol content (BAC) was measured at 0.10 percent. Uzupis was convicted of violating N.J.S.A. 39:4-50 in municipal court.

This latest appeal was the second one following the man’s conviction in Atlantic County. Regardless, the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division upheld the original DWI conviction based on the reasons set forth in Judge Robert Neustadter’s original decision.

The appellate court added that the only viable issue was whether the police had waited the twenty minutes required by State v. Chun before administering the Alcotest and whether he had defendant under continuous observation during that time. Both the municipal and the Law Division judges found that the Chun requirements had been met.

The defendant offered expert testimony that the field sobriety tests used were not scientifically reliable, but the State did not offer them as scientifically reliable tests. They were the basis for the officer’s observations of intoxication. Proof of a defendant’s physical condition of intoxication typically consists of proof through the testimony of a police officer with respect to his or her observations of the defendant.

The court added that a police officer is permitted to give lay opinion testimony as to whether a defendant was under the influence of alcohol, and added that the field sobriety tests certainly provided an acceptable basis for the arrest and subsequent administration of the Alcotest.