Bergen County Woman Cleared of DWI Charges following Fatal Pedestrian Accident in Hackensack

Being accused of drunk driving when one knows he or she is not intoxicated can be a frustrating and potentially expensive event in any person’s life, but being told that you were drunk following an injury or fatal accident can have greater implications, many of which may be undeserved and possibly damaging in so many ways. As New Jersey DWI defense attorneys, my legal team knows that a percentage of alleged drunk driving accidents can occasionally not be attributable to drinking and driving. Proving it, however, can sometimes be a challenge.

It goes without saying that the injury or death of any innocent person is a tragedy that nobody ever wants to occur. Unfortunately, automobile accidents can and do happen with alarming frequency here in the Garden State. For a driver’s honest and tragic mistake lead to a drunken driving arrest without the proper legal evidence only compounds the sadness felt by all concerned.

Our firm has seen, time and time again, where police officers make wholly subjective observations that have led to the unjust arrest of motorists for driving under the influence of alcohol or prescription drugs. While this does not always happen, each instance of an unjustified arrest provides an object lesson for why it is imperative to consult with a qualified DWI-DUI defense attorney when confronted with a drunk driving summons or other related traffic offense.

Not too long ago we ran across an article that illustrated what can happen to an individual when alcohol is suspected, yet the necessary or prudent steps are not taken by the police to determine actual intoxication. According to news reports, a New Jersey woman was cleared last month of DWI charges after being accused of drunk driving in connection with the apparently accidental death of a pedestrian in Hackensack back in October.

The victim, a well-known businessman from River Vale, NJ, was reportedly crossing Prospect Avenue in Hackensack around 7:30pm when the collision occurred. Sadly, the 87-year-old man did not cross at a designated crosswalk and the lighting conditions at that spot were rather poor, according to the victim’s own daughter. The driver, 63-year-old Kathleen Gehm, also of River Vale was issued summonses for reckless driving, as well as DWI after reportedly failing two field sobriety tests.

The woman’s lawyer stated that his client was extremely shaken up following the accident and, when requested to perform the “walk-and-turn” and “one-leg stand” field sobriety tests, she had a very difficult time because she was cold standing on the roadside, was wearing sandals, and also has balance problems due to being born with one ear. Although the woman agreed to submit to a breathalyzer test at the scene, police opted for a blood test, the results of which took weeks to be returned.

While no alcohol was detected on the woman or in her vehicle, police apparently assumed she was drunk due to her poor performance on the field sobriety tests. Once the blood test results were ready in mid-December, the woman’s defense lawyer said that the local prosecutor’s office would not pursue criminal charges against the lady. The attorney further added that that actions by the police — essentially stating that Gehm was driving while intoxicated prior to the crash — caused the woman’s reputation to be tarnished.

Even the family of the victim was relieved to hear of Gehm’s toxicology report, according to news articles, because they could now mourn for their lost loved one without worrying about all the speculation the tragic accident had generated over the past months. For those individuals wondering if something similar could happen to another driver in the future, one could say that this is not beyond the realm of possibility. We would add that, when in doubt, contacting a skilled DWI lawyer is the best decision when fighting unjust drunken driving charges.

Lawyer: Toxicology test clears woman accused of fatally hitting Some’s Uniforms founder in Hackensack; NorthJersey.com; December 18, 2013