No one should be too surprised to learn that the Click It or Ticket traffic safety campaign here in the Garden State caught more than the occasional unbelted motorist. As New Jersey DWI defense lawyers, I and my colleagues know that the seat belt use law can result in police officers catching potentially drunken drivers as well.
In addition to the state’s use of sobriety roadblocks and drunk driving checkpoints in the late evening and early morning hours, the latest seat belt enforcement campaign is likely to result in numerous intoxicated driving arrests and possibly a number of convictions for driving under the influence of alcohol. Of course, those individuals who take the wheel while impaired, either knowingly or unknowingly, by the effects of prescription drugs can also be arrested for driving under the influence (drug DUI) just as easily.
A while back, the township of Winslow, NJ, announced the results of their part in the national safety belt enforcement effort, sponsored New Jersey’s Division of Highway Traffic Safety, and which lasted from late May through early June of this year. The statistics bear out the relative success of the campaign. In Winslow Township alone, police officers gave out more than 400 traffic summonses.
Of those tickets, almost one-third were for primary seat belt violations, which may come as a surprise given the marketing that went into this effort. In addition, 32 tickets were issued for excessive speed and another 30 were fore driving on a suspended license. Nine drivers were arrested for operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated (DWI) and six people were taken into custody for drug-related offenses, such as marijuana possession.
Although the campaign itself has ended, summer driving season has its own set of caveats, primarily that police are always on the lookout for vehicles being driven in a suspicious manner that suggests the driver might be impaired due to beer, wine, hard liquor or prescription drug use. As DWI and DUI defense attorneys, we always like to tell anyone who has been issued a ticket or summons for drunken driving that DWI, DUI or breath test refusal, that there are severe penalties if one is convicted of drinking and driving.
Aside from the thousands of dollars in monetary fines and assessments following a guilty verdict, there is also a mandatory license suspension for those convicted of DWI here in New Jersey. Keep in mind, too, that state law makes it illegal for any plea bargain arrangements for drunken driving charges. This makes it all the more important to choose an drunk driving defense attorney with sufficient experience to effectively attack the state’s case against a driver accused of DWI.
One of the most common ways to be stopped for drunk driving is at a DWI roadblock, also known as a sobriety checkpoint. Many of our clients over the years have expressed concerns about the relative fairness of these roadblocks, especially given the seemingly random nature of this kind of police checkpoint. The short answer is that the public has been protected by law against unreasonable detention and seizure stemming from roadblocks.
The reasons will be covered in a subsequent post, but suffice it to say that the constitutionality of police roadblocks was addressed in the 1979 United States Supreme Court case of Delaware v. Prouse, 440 U.S. 648 (1979). In that case, the Court held that it was unconstitutional to stop and detain a driver without “articulable” suspicion that a motorist was in violation of any law that would subject the vehicle or occupant to seizure for a violation of that law.
Since then, the law requires that sobriety checkpoints be placed in appropriate locations based on historical arrest rates in that area, and that traffic safety and public awareness would be fostered by the operation of that checkpoint, among other requirements.
Winslow Township police release Click It or Ticket stats, NJ.com, June 14, 2011