As a New Jersey drunken driving defense attorney and former municipal prosecutor, I have met dozens of police and public safety officers throughout my career as a litigator. In my capacity as both defense lawyer and prosecuting attorney, I know very well the efforts put forth by representatives of our state and local police agencies. I also have a great respect for those individuals who on a daily basis put their lives one the line for the rest of society.
And, while I believe I understand the stresses experienced by many in the law enforcement community, I find it difficult to reconcile those instances when a patrolman steps over the line and breaks the laws that he himself has sworn to uphold. A recent new story about a Garden State police trooper brought this to mind recently, if only to point out that even policemen and other officers of the court should be held accountable for DWI violations, just as any other citizen is required to do.
Most people would probably agree that there is never a good excuse for anyone in law enforcement to knowingly drive drunk. Whether by the use of alcohol or doctor-prescribed medication, an officer of the court should be held to at least the standard that other residents must adhere. As DWI defense lawyers, we have very little tolerance for those of authority who fail to observe the laws that they have been entrusted to enforce. In regard to the news article in question, according to reports a NJ State Police trooper assigned to Capitol security was suspended not long ago following a drunken driving arrest in the state of Missouri.
New reports indicate that the 46-year-old off-duty patrolman was pulled over for speeding in a small town by a local state highway patrol officer. The incident occurred just after 7pm in mid-April. At the time of the arrest, the off-duty Jersey officer was arrested and charged with DWI, as well as drinking alcohol while operating a motor vehicle. At the time of the news article, the county prosecutor’s office had no comment about the arrest of the 23-year police veteran. Back here in New Jersey, officials said that the officer had been suspended without pay pending the outcome of the case in Missouri.
As can be deduced, this kind of arrest, much less a conviction, could have a significant affect on the officer’s future with the state police or any other law enforcement agency. In a separate news story, we note that a New Jersey prison guard lost his appeal to regain employment at the South Woods State Prison following a conviction for breath test refusal.
In that case, the state appellate court reportedly turned down the appeal of a 14-year veteran with the Department of Corrections after he was let go from his job by the state’s Civil Service Commission. The drunken driving incident that apparently precipitated the firing took place late in 2009 when the man was arrested in Vineland, NJ, on charges of DWI and refusal to take a breathalyzer test.
He ended up pleaded guilty to the breath-test refusal charges in mid-2010, but reportedly waited two months, versus the required 48 hours, to advise his employer regarding his third DWI conviction, which included a 10-year license suspension.
NJ trooper on Capitol security suspended after DWI arrest, NorthJersey.com, May 14, 2012
Prison officer loses fired appeal, TheDailyJournal.com, May. 14, 2012