New Jersey Drunk Driving Update: Understanding the DWI Arrest and Conviction Process — Part One

Taking the wheel of a car or truck while intoxicated is never advisable, though many people do drive after drinking a beer, a glass of wine or shot of tequila. After doing so, the odds of getting pulled over can often go up many fold. As a New Jersey DWI defense attorney and former prosecuting attorney for municipalities in the state, I understand how drivers in the Garden State can get arrested for and charged with drunk driving by local or state police.

Knowing that you can be arrested for driving while intoxicated is fine for starters, but there are a number of other parts of the drunken driving arrest and conviction process that one should be familiar with. Naturally, impaired driving either through the consumption of alcohol or the use of prescription medication (drug DUI) is something that every drive should avoid for their own safety, if not for others.

As Ocean, Monmouth, Bergen and Union County drunk driving defense attorneys, we hope that the following pointers may be of some use to individuals currently facing DWI or DUI charges. Understanding these may help other New Jersey motorists avoid the pitfalls and legal troubles of being arrested or convicted of drunken driving. The process begins, simply enough, with a driver being stopped for a routine traffic violation, but it can quickly escalate to include taking a field sobriety test and then an Alcotest, or breathalyzer test.

Whether a driver is ultimately charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, drug DUI, or breath test refusal, will have much to do with the particular circumstances of the traffic stop and the driver’s level of inebriation.

Many might ponder under what circumstances a New Jersey police officer will likely stop them for drunken driving. Although an officer may not be aware at first that a motorist is, in fact, impaired by alcohol or prescription meds, he may decide to pull a driver over for any number of possible traffic violations.

For example, a cop may see a car run a traffic signal or perhaps perform an illegal lane change. It’s commonly understood that certain kinds of vehicle maneuvers are telltale signatures of a person driving under the influence. Some of the more “suspicious” driving patterns may include a vehicle that drifts lazily across the roadway center line, a driver who operates the vehicle much below the posted speed limit and telltale weaving, even slowing down and then speeding up repeatedly and for no actual reason.

If a local or state police officer witnesses these or other erratic driving modes, he may likely choose to pull the suspect vehicle over by making a totally legal traffic stop. By doing so, he will have the opportunity to observe the driver first-hand and examine the vehicle interior as well.

Once an officer has pulled a motorist to the side of the roadway, he will usually commence to ask a number of questions. Whether a driver must answer these initial questions depends on the kind of info the officer is asking for. It is important to understand that a motorist does not have to answer every question put to him or her, but there are some queries that drivers are legally required to answer. These include name, age and whether or not the motorist possesses a valid New Jersey driver’s license.

Please remember that the police do not have to read you the well-known Miranda rights until after a drunk driving arrest has actually been made. Up ’til then, he or she will likely try to get the driver to incriminate himself. This happens more often than one might expect, including admissions from a driver that he was just returning from a party or that he had a beer with friends. Gathering this type of info usually helps the municipal prosecutor to prove the drunken driving charges pressed against a driver in a court of law and likely get a DWI conviction.