The Typical New Jersey DWI Stop is Hardly Typical when You’re the One Being Arrested

The skilled attorneys at the Law Office of Jonathan F. Marshall have successfully defended motorists arrested for and charged with drunk driving, drug DUI, breath test refusal and other alcohol and prescription drug-related offenses in Monmouth, Sussex, Middlesex and Union counties. Our commitment to our clients is demonstrated by the aggressive and vigorous defense; and our legal staff is knowledgeable in all aspects of New Jersey DWI law, criminal statutes and offenses involving drug DUI and possession in a motor vehicle.

As Garden State DWI-DUI defense lawyers, we understand how frightening a drunk driving arrest can be to the average person; if only because most drivers who are charged with a first-time offense for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol are likely law-abiding individuals with families and good standing in their community.

Unfortunately, law enforcement personnel are usually more interested in whether a crime or civil offense has been committed and less about the background of the alleged offender; that is something for a judge to consider when the case comes to trial. As attorneys, we endeavor to pursue the facts and present our client’s case in the best possible light, while working to call into question the prosecution’s arguments and evidence that is being used against the defendant.

While every DWI case is unique, there are a number of legal defenses a skilled lawyer can apply when going up against a drunk driving charge. For example, if the prosecution must show that there was probable cause for the initial traffic stop. If the police officer did in fact observe a motorist swerving across lanes, exceeding the speed limit, or running a red light, then the subsequent traffic stop may be legitimate.

However, there have been instances where police officers or highway patrolmen have stopped motorists solely on the basis of a license plate query, which may have shown that the driver had a history of previous traffic violations. If a skilled lawyer can show the court that this kind of random information gathering was not related to probable cause — as the law defines it — there may be grounds to throw out any evidence gained during that subsequent traffic stop.

This is just one example — and there are dozens of others — that illustrate the importance of having a qualified legal expert who understands not only the New Jersey legal statutes, but who is experienced in defending individuals accused of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated. Again, when an officer makes a license plate check for a driver’s history of previous traffic violations, and when that officer acts on that information and pulls a driver over on the roadside, it can be argued that it represents a prejudice on the patrolman’s part, not unlike that of racial profiling in criminal arrests.

There is a great deal of New Jersey case law involving what is or isn’t a proper traffic stop. Under State v. Carpentieri, 82 N.J. 546 (1980), the New Jersey Supreme Court wrote a decision that says police must have an “articulable and reasonable suspicion” that a violation of the traffic laws has occurred before the officer in charge may effectuate a motor vehicle stop eventually leading to a DWI arrest. Then, in the 2002 case, State v. Pegeese, the state Supreme Court ruled held that after a law enforcement officer receives evidence of proper licensing, registration, etc., the patrolman may not detain the driver for a consent search absent a violation or criminal conduct.

While the aforementioned cases may seem to give DWI defendants an edge, some case law provides police with more flexibility in alleged drunk driving scenarios. In one landmark case, that of State v. Pitcher in 2005, the Court held that a traffic stop based on a police officer’s mistaken understanding of a fact — for example, if a motorist was believed to have been driving on a suspended license — cannot be invalidated so long as the patrolman’s actions were supported by a “reasonable” belief that the related facts were accurate.

As can be seen from this limited sample of New Jersey case law, it is almost imperative to have a qualified DWI defense attorney at one’s side when fighting a drunken driving summons. Surely it can be argued that taking advantage of the free, no-obligation consultations offered by most respectable trial lawyers is the least a person can do for himself when facing the stiff fines and other monetary penalties linked to DWI and drug DUI offenses.

Of course, every situation is unique. And as experienced drunken driving defense lawyers the legal staff at law offices of Jonathan F. Marshall make it their job to provide a thorough and aggressive defense for its clients. If you need to speak with an attorney about a DWI, drug DUI, breath test refusal summons or other impaired driving arrest, please feel free to call us toll free at (877) 450-8301.