New Jersey Assemblyman Alleges Washington Twp. Police Officer of Abused Authority in DWI Arrest

Having represented hundreds of motorists throughout the Garden State who have been accused of driving under the influence of alcohol or prescription drugs (drug DUI), my firm understands that not every driver arrested for drunk driving is convicted for same. As New Jersey DWI defense attorneys, we know that it takes certain evidence and testimony to result in a drunken driving conviction. This is why we always recommend that anyone who is arrested for or issued a summons regarding driving while intoxicated should, at the very least, consult with a qualified DUI lawyer prior to stepping into a court of law.

On numerous occasions, we have explained how police, prosecutors and other state officials must be held to the same or better standard when it comes to the laws and statutes of our state. And as news reports show, there are more than a few instances every year where a patrolman, police official, jurist or other officer of the court is arrested for violating one of the numerous laws he or she is sworn to uphold. Being treated differently than the average citizen in cases involving drunk driving or other serious traffic offenses is a luxury nobody should have over the general population.

With the stiff fines and other punitive measures associated with a DWI or drug DUI conviction, every person found guilty should face the same penalties regardless of social rank or government office. Understanding as we do the difficult circumstances to which a convicted drunken driving defendant will be subject is reason enough to call for equal treatment under the law, as well as equal protection.

We were reminded of this kind of scenario the other day when coming across a news story describing how a New Jersey assemblyman alleges that a Washington Twp. police officer abused his authority when that patrolman arrested the state official for DWI after a routine traffic stop back in July. According to news articles, Assemblyman Paul Moriarty was stopped by Officer Joseph DiBuonaventura after the patrolman allegedly pursued the man’s vehicle near the intersection of Greentree and Black Horse Pike.

According to the officer, Assemblyman Moriarty cut off his patrol car and failed to maintain his lane, which resulted in the stop and subsequent DWI charge. Based on police reports, after stopping Moriarty, the officer reportedly detected alcohol on the man’s breath. After having assemblyman perform a field sobriety test, DiBuonaventura arrested the driver and transported him back to headquarters for a breathalyzer test, which Moriarty refused, according to news reports.

The assemblyman, on the other hand, maintains that he was completely sober at the time of the traffic stop and, furthermore, consumed no alcohol prior to the traffic stop and drunken driving arrest. Alleging that he was “harassed and singled out,” Moriarty disputed all charges against him, as well as alleging officer misconduct in the wake of that DWI arrest. From the police union’s standpoint, based on statements from officials, the officer did not abuse his authority, nor was there any corruption. Apparently the judge reviewing the case feels there is merit to Moriarty’s case.

Ruling that 13 of the more than two dozen complaints lodged by the plaintiff represent probable cause, a South Jersey judge has allowed the case to continue, based on complaints that allege the officer committed perjury and official misconduct, as well as filing false reports and falsifying/tampering with public records.

As background, earlier news reports indicated that the incident took place just before 4pm on a Tuesday as the assemblyman was reportedly going to lunch at a local Chick-fil-A in Washington Township. The officer’s in-car video camera documented the traffic stop, including the field sobriety test that the patrolman administered in a parking lot after his suspicions were raised that the driver may have been drinking and driving.

The assemblyman’s concern over police procedure and especially the officer’s conduct and motivations is completely understandable, not the least of which is the fact that that refusing a breathalyzer test can result in a loss of one’s driving privileges, just as a conviction for DWI can lead to a license suspension.

Grand jury to review Moriarty case, CourierPostOnline.com, October 23, 2012
Washington Township Police Union defends officer who arrested N.J. Assemblyman for DWI, NJ.com, August 01, 2012