New Jersey Woman’s Body Jewelry Interferes with Morris County Drunken Driving Case

It’s not every day that one can say that a piece of clothing or jewelry helped them get out of a tight legal spot, but that was the gist of a case against a New Jersey woman, who is now able to say her tongue stud helped her out in a Morris County courtroom earlier this year. As New Jersey drunk driving defense attorneys, I and my colleagues are dedicated to helping those Garden State motorists who have been accused of DWI, drug DUI, breath test refusal and other drunken driving-related offenses.

In the aforementioned case, the motorist’s DWI lawyer was able to use the law to his client’s advantage and reduce the potential penalties she was facing if convicted of the initial charge of driving while intoxicated. Although this may not be cause for drivers to get their own body modifications, it certainly points up the importance of having a qualified DWI defense lawyer at one’s side; surely it is an example of why it’s always a good idea to consult with a legal professional prior to walking into a courtroom to defend oneself against a DWI or drug DUI charge.

According to news articles, 29-year-old Kara Nelson was stopped by police along a stretch of Rte 46 for an apparent routine traffic offense earlier this year. Police reports indicated that Nelson was pulled over around 2am on January 14. During the traffic stop the patrolman in charge, Officer P. Ottavinia, must have noticed signs of intoxication and requested Nelson to perform a number of standardized field sobriety tests, which apparently indicated that the driver was impaired to some degree.

Based on police reports, Nelson was taken into custody and subjected to a breathalyzer test in order to determine her level of intoxication. According to police, the woman registered a 0.21 percent blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) after taking the breath test. For reference, the legal limit in New Jersey, as well as many other states, is 0.08 percent.

Months later, Nelson went to court to defend herself against the charges, which could have meant a mandatory fine of $300 plus court costs, as well as a 7-month suspension of Nelson’s driver’s license. The twist in this case came when it was revealed that Nelson was wearing a tongue stud, a piece of body jewelry. Because of this, Nelson’s lawyer argued that breath test itself was invalid because the law requires that a breathalyzer subject have “no foreign materials” in their mouth at the time of the test.

Although Ms. Nelson did plead guilty to the charge of drunken driving, the municipal prosecutor recommended to the presiding judge that the 0.21 percent BAC reading be thrown out and not used to determine the penalties for the defendant. It’s is important, at this juncture, to remind readers that even in the absence of a valid and properly administered BAC test, a judge can still find a person guilty of drunk driving based on various other factors. In this particular case, the defendant’s apparent failure of the field sobriety tests was evidence enough to support the charges.

Having pled guilty, Nelson was ordered by the court to pay minimum fine of $256, as well as a $200 surcharge and other costs. The defendant’s license was indeed suspended, but only for three months versus the possible seven. As of this particular case, New Jersey authorities stated that no previous defendants had ever claimed a tongue stud or other mouth piercing was sufficient grounds to invalidate a breathalyzer test.

Tongue stud helps woman reduce drunk-driving charge in Mount Olive, NewJerseyHills.com, April 30, 2012