As we mentioned a few weeks back, many cities and towns throughout the Garden State have received funding for enhanced DWI patrols and drunken driving checkpoints (also referred to as DWI roadblocks). Many of these municipalities also happen to have some of the highest arrest rates in the state, which may in part be doe to the additional funding, or could be attributable to the zealous nature of their police force, at least as it applies to enforcing drunken driving laws.
As a New Jersey DWI defense attorney, my firm represents numerous drivers from counties such as Middlesex, Bergen, Hudson and Union who have been accused of driving while intoxicated, impaired driving due to prescription medication as well as breath test refusal and marijuana possession in a motor vehicle. It goes without saying that a percentage of these individuals likely were stopped in areas receiving funding for increased DWI enforcement.
As we have said before, suspicion that a driver may have had too much to drink is not sufficient grounds for the police to stop a vehicle. In order for a drunken driving arrest to be valid, the officer in charge must first have reasonable suspicion that a traffic infraction has been committed; this usually means that the officer must first observe the driver of a car or truck perform an illegal traffic maneuver, exceed the posted speed limit, operate his or her vehicle with some kind of equipment problem, or another kind of traffic offense.
Once a local patrolman or state trooper has pulled a vehicle to the side of the road for a traffic infraction, it is then that a potential drunken driving arrest could occur. Whatever the initial reason for the traffic stop, a driver who may have had a couple drinks prior to getting behind the wheel of his car could be arrested for DWI and taken into custody to have a breathalyzer test performed using an Alcotest machine or some other breath-testing device.
A while back, news reports named a number of police officers from departments around the state who had the largest number of DWI arrests of any law enforcement personnel. According to reports, Gloucester County patrolmen were honored by the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety (DHTS) earlier this year; named by the DHTS as “Top Guns” for the 2010 calendar year.
Singling out one officer in each county as a “Top Gun,” the DHTS also names one law enforcement officer from each state police troop, as well as a single officer for the entire state of New Jersey.
Top in the state for drunk driving arrests was Camden County police officer Anthony Campbell III of the Somerdale Police Department, who was named “Top Gun” for all of New Jersey. Campbell’s arrest record for 2010 was 58 drunk driving arrests. Gloucester Co. patrolman James Graham of the Deptford Twp. Police Department received the top honor for his county. Thomas McWain and Nicholas Barbetta, both police officers from the South Harrison Twp. were also honored for their work in curbing drunken driving.
During the event, the DHTS also honored those killed by drunk or otherwise impaired drivers.
State honors “Top Gun” officers for DWI arrests; Deptford, South Harrison officers included, NJ.com, August 13, 2011