Seemingly Innocent Driving Errors Can Trigger a Routine Police Stop; Lead to Potential DWI Arrest

As we mentioned a few days ago, suspicion of drunk driving is not sufficient grounds, on its own, for a law enforcement officer to pull a motorist over. As New Jersey drunk driving defense attorneys, I and my staff know that the law requires a police officer to observe an actionable traffic offense prior to stopping a vehicle. That said, with the many and varied traffic laws on the books throughout counties like Monmouth, Bergen, Essex and Ocean, there exists a plethora of potential violations that patrolmen can look for when following a motorist on a public road.

And it should come as no surprise that individuals who are impaired by alcohol or drugs can make it rather easy for policemen to identify them on the road, much less perform an illegal traffic maneuver or other moving violation. Sometimes, all it takes is a broken taillight, cracked windshield glass or other “mechanical” defect affecting the vehicle. In these cases, a vehicle equipment violation as simple as a burned-out turn signal light (less than $5 to fix) could open the door to a DWI charge, for which a convicted could run the motorist thousands of dollars in fees, fines, court costs and mandatory insurance surcharges.

All this should be enough to warn off many people from attempting to take even a single drink before operating a motor vehicle here in the Garden State. But human nature being what it is, there will always be individuals who either feel invincible or immune from the long arm of the law. As professional legal specialists in the area of drinking and driving, we can say that few, if any, drivers get away with driving drunk for long. And we wouldn’t say this if it wasn’t for the thousands of DWI cases that pass through New Jerseys court system every year.

If anyone needs an example, we ran into three just the other day while reviewing news reports of DWI and drug DUI arrests. And while no single case is ever quite the same, the kinds of traffic stops that lead to arrests can seem quite similar. Regardless of the events leading up to a police stop, the potential for being arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated, much less being convicted for same, is ever-present. We can only remind the public to be wise and don’t drink alcohol prior to driving; and if you must drink, find a sober ride home, or wherever you need to be.

Ocean County DWI Arrest
Based on news reports, a man from Forked River, NJ, was stopped for what police described as erratic driving along a stretch of road in Lacey Twp. According to police, a vehicle made a turn onto Rte 9 from Beach Boulevard in an “extremely lethargic” manner. A local detective followed the vehicle and eventually pulled the suspect over for what apparently must have been a routine traffic violation. In the process of the stop, police found what they said was heroin and drug paraphernalia on the driver’s person. The man was arrested and charged with DWI, as well as possession of heroin.

Out-of-State Driver Arrested in Hunterdon County
Readington Police reportedly stopped a New York motorist along a stretch of Rte 523 in Hunterdon, County in the early morning hours on a Sunday in July. The officer in charge apparently observed the driver fail to signal a lane change and stopped the driver for allegedly weaving in the roadway. During the traffic stop, the patrolman detected the odor of alcohol emanating from the suspect’s mouth. Asking the driver to perform several of the standardized field sobriety tests, which the motorist apparently failed, the officer took the man into custody and charged him with DWI, failure to signal, as well as failure to maintain his lane. He was processed and released to a family member pending a court date.

Lambertville Police Charge Driver with DWI and Reckless Driving
A 30-year-old driver from Pennsylvania was stopped by police in Hunterdon County after she was observed driving in an “improper manner.” News reports indicate that the traffic incident occurred along a stretch of Rte 29 around 2am in the morning. The officer who made the arrest stated that he determined the driver was under the influence during the police stop. The woman was charged with DWI, reckless driving and several other traffic offenses.

Readington Police charge New York driver with DUI on Route 523, NJ.com, July 13, 2012
Police: ‘Erratic’ Driver Charged With DUI, Patch.com, July 12, 2012
Lambertville Police charge Pennsylvania driver with DUI, reckless driving on Route 29; NJ.com; July 11, 2012