Arrested for Drunken Driving? What Jersey Drivers should Know about Blood-Alcohol Testing, Other DWI Evidence

It’s probably a good bet that until a driver is arrested for driving while intoxicated (DWI) he or she has not given much thought to the process of being arrested, much less the penalties associated with a drunken driving conviction. Frankly, being stopped for a traffic violation here in the Garden State is quite common; being charged with driving under the influence is slightly less common, but a definite possibility if that motorist has recently had a drink before being stopped.

Understanding the process of a DWI or drug DUI arrest is important, since many things have to happen between the initial traffic stop and a full-blown conviction for drunk driving. First of all, it’s never a bad idea to consult with a qualified legal professional regarding such an arrest or summons.

Hiring an experienced New Jersey DWI defense lawyer is something that every person accused of DWI or DUI must make himself. Can an attorney make a difference? Generally this is expected, but the outcome of any drunk driving case is based on a number of factors, including the amount and type of the evidence against the driver.

However, with the potential of still fines and even loss of one’s driver’s license, understanding one’s situation is very important to getting through the process with the best outcome possible. Even for first-time offenders there is the possibility of jail time — depending on the circumstances — on top of heavy fines and other assessments, such as increased insurance auto premiums.

These fines and penalties have been created so as to send a message to DWI offenders that tolerance for such activities is quite low across the state. Whether one lives in Bergen, Essex, Ocean or any of the counties across the state, the law is such that fines, fees and other penalties are fairly uniform.

In the way of supporting evidence, the results from a breathalyzer or Alcotest machine are one of the most significant pieces of information available to the local prosecutor’s office. After a police officer in the field arrests a driver, the usual next step is to measure that individual’s blood-alcohol level. Known as BAC (or blood-alcohol content), this reading is a percentage of alcohol within the blood stream.

For a BAC measurement to be ruled valid by the court, a chemical breath test must be performed in accordance with methods previously approved by the state’s attorney general. The test and operation of the breath test device must also be performed by a person certified for that particular task. This rule was established in an earlier DWI-related case, State v. Chun, in which the New Jersey Supreme Court set standards for the operation, procedures and protocols for breath testing in New Jersey.

Blood Tests
First of all, one should be advised that the police do not need to get a person’s consent to perform a blood test. However, it should be noted that under the law blood cannot be forcibly taken from any individual; also, unlike many other states, there also no such thing as refusal to submit to a blood test here in the Garden State.

For blood test results to be admissible in a courtroom, the prosecution must establish that the blood sample was taken in a medically acceptable manner by a qualified individual; one who is certified to perform the function of drawing blood from another person. Should a DWI suspect have his or her blood drawn by medical professionals in the course of treatment for injuries following an accident, in other words “for medical purposes,” the results of any analysis performed by the hospital is considered confidential. If challenged, the prosecution must prove that the sample was properly preserved and that the test results are reliable.

Urine Tests
Following a drunken driving arrest, it may be determined that the motorist is not impaired due to alcohol consumption but rather as a result of possible drug use, Whether due to prescription medication or illicit drug use (cocaine, heroine, meth, marijuana, etc.), police may request the driver to provide a urine sample. Typically requested only when a New Jersey driver is suspected of drug DUI, this area of evidence collection can be covered in a future entry. Nevertheless, this and other details of a DWI case can only serve to point up the reason why a drive might want to consult with an experienced drunken driving attorney should the need arise.