Off-duty Jersey Policeman Charged with DWI, Breath Test Refusal after Altercation at Gas Station

As professional trial attorneys, my colleagues and I have a great deal of respect for our men and women in uniform: the soldiers in our military who fight for our nation in conflicts abroad, and the law enforcement and emergency services personnel who maintain order and protect the health and safety of citizens here in the Garden State and elsewhere throughout our country.

In fact, as a former municipal prosecutor myself, I have worked closely with police officers and other New Jersey law enforcement officials to uphold our state and federal legal statutes. I fully understand the dedication and sacrifice that those in law enforcement provide to our communities on a daily basis. But, while I respect and admire the efforts and selfless commitment of our police officers as a whole, I also know that there can be some bad apples in every bushel.

There is a line we all must draw when a public servant breaks the laws he has been sworn to uphold. As citizens, each of us should expect every public official, including patrolmen, to carry themselves with dignity even when off duty. The vast majority of police, judiciary and legislative representatives in this state are a credit to their individual professions as they go about their lives being the exemplary role models that the rest of us can appreciate and emulate.

What is difficult to accept is when a public servant flouts the law or perverts it to his or her own advantage. Drunken driving law is something that we know very well as New Jersey DWI defense lawyers, which is why we find it shameful when a police officer, prosecutor or any officer of the court actively breaks the very laws he or she enforces on a daily basis. One cannot expect the public to respect the individuals who enforce drunk driving laws if those same individuals disobey or ignore the very statutes for which they hold everyday citizens accountable.

This topic came to mind earlier this summer when a news report documented the questionable actions of one Jersey City police officer. According to the article we saw, the off-duty officer allegedly was involved in a fight at a gas station in the Jersey City Heights area. The man reportedly was himself assaulted at the station by a group of individuals, however in the course of the confrontation the officer apparently got himself into some hot water due to being allegedly intoxicated at the time.

Based on the news article, the incident took place a little after 3am when the off-duty patrolman, who was not wearing his uniform, and four others got into a fight inside the convenience store portion of the gas station located on Kennedy Boulevard. After the fight moved to the outside of the store, one of the four men pushed and knocked down the officer. At one point during the incident, the police officer allegedly pulled out his gun; a security camera apparently caught the episode on video.

Officers called to the scene apparently broke up the fight and in doing so noted that the off-duty cop exhibited behavior that indicated he may have been drunk. He was taken into custody by fellow officers, though he refused to submit to a breath test to determine his blood-alcohol content (BAC). Ultimately, the man was charged with DWI and breathalyzer refusal.

Depending on the outcome of that case, the officer in question may not have been able to fulfill his duties as part of the sentencing for a conviction on breath test refusal is a loss of driving privileges for a period of time. According to the news report, the officer had been on the force for the past six years. Pending the outcome of an administrative hearing, he was placed in a non-police capacity and he was ordered to relinquish his service weapon.

Jersey City off-duty cop charged with drunk driving after he gets into fight at gas station, NJ.com, June 13, 2013