Rather few members of New Jersey’s law enforcement community have much sympathy when arresting drunk drivers here in the Garden State. And with the amount of energy devoted to stopping motorists who may or may not be inebriated, there should be no question as to the aim of most state and local DWI and drug DUI patrols; that is, to hand over to the local prosecutor’s office motorists who have in the eyes of the law very likely committed a drunken driving offense. Along with the defendant, police must also provide the municipal prosecutor with sufficient evidence to obtain a conviction.
Does it happen? Yes, indeed. Many people do have their day in court only to be found guilty and then have still penalties heaped upon them. The law is specific, not only in terms of the various criteria that must be met to attain a guilty verdict, but also the monetary penalties and other punitive actions, post-conviction, all provided for by this state’s drunken driving statutes. As DWI defense lawyers, our job is to consider all of the facts, particularly those held up by the prosecution as evidence that a motorist was truly drunk at the time of his or her arrest.
As drunk driving defense attorneys, my legal team knows that not every driver arrested for operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated was actually impaired beyond a reasonable doubt. My colleagues and I know that many people who are picked up for DWI-DUI — especially many first-time offenders — did not consciously decide to go out and break the law by driving drunk. However, once that traffic stop is made, and an officer suspects the driver of being impaired by alcohol or drugs, an arrest is most likely forthcoming, to be followed by formal charges and the setting of a hearing date in a municipal courtroom.
With the large number of drunk driving stops that take place in this state on a weekly basis, would it really be so surprising that, from time to time, a motorist who was taken into custody and charged with DWI or DUI might have a fighting chance of being found not guilty? At the very least, the law of averages suggests that at a certain percentage of drunk driving arrests may have been conducted improperly, which could alter the course of a case against an individual, given the skill of the lawyer who represents him.
The news is full of stories illustrating the ease with which many drivers find themselves pulled over and in custody, not to mention facing charges of driving under the influence. Some examples of typical DWI police stops are included below. Based on Bergen County police blotters, these may provide some insight into the circumstances that precede many of the DWI, drug DUI, and other alcohol- or drug-related arrests on our roadways.
East Rutherford DWI Arrests
Local police arrested a man who apparently had fallen asleep behind the wheel of his vehicle in the right-hand lane of southbound Rte 17. According to police reports, the incident occurred in the early morning hours around 4am. Police officers found the motorist asleep and snoring in his vehicle; he reportedly had his foot on the brake and the transmission in drive. After shutting down the right two lanes of the southbound roadway, officers tried to rouse the sleeping driver by knocking on the door window but could not gain his attention.
Entering from the passenger-side, a tow truck driver was able to provide the officers with access to the driver. They placed the car’s transmission into park and shut the motor off. Once awakened, the 25-year-old driver told the patrolmen that he had consumed about a half bottle of hard liquor at a bar in Teaneck, NJ. Officers stated that the motorist had the smell of alcoholic on his breath. After reported failing several field sobriety tests, the man was arrested for driving under the influence, as well as careless driving, obstructing a roadway, and not wearing a seatbelt, among other offenses.
In another incident, officers responded to a two-vehicle traffic accident along a stretch of Hoboken Rd. According to news reports, one of the victims claimed that his vehicle was hit by another car traveling at a high rate of speed as he attempted to make a left onto Hoboken Rd. According to police reports, no skid marks were evident and the driver of the other vehicle was found to have the odor of an alcoholic beverage on her breath. Officers also stated that the 23-year-old Hackensack resident exhibited slow and slurred speech, as well as watery and bloodshot eyes.
The suspect was unable, according to reports, to provide officers with a valid driver’s license, proof of insurance, or a vehicle registration card. During the investigation, police observed a bag of pot apparently lying in plain sight in the vehicle belonged to her. The woman failed a number of field sobriety tests, after which she was arrested for DWI, careless driving and possession of controlled dangerous substance (CDS) in a motor vehicle, among others.
East Rutherford: Police Blotter, NorthJersey.com, January 30, 2014