Jersey Drunk Driving Update: Odd Driver Behavior is a Red Flag for Police

Just like everyone else, police officers are human. And while patrolmen do have many special skills, as well as years of training in criminology and law enforcement, they are not psychics; however, they do know what to look for when it comes to human behavior on Garden State roadways. As DWI defense lawyers, the attorneys at my firm meet a near constant stream of people who have been charged with traffic infractions and other offenses. On the whole, few of these individuals ever expected to be awaiting a court date to determine whether or not they will be convicted of drinking and driving.

What most people do not realize — at least not until it is too late — is that local and state patrolmen have a keen eye for the telltale hints that a motorist may not be paying complete attention to the job of driving. Whether that sign is a poorly executed turn, driving noticeably below the posted speed limit or drifting repeatedly outside of one’s lane, a seasoned officer can probably anticipate the outcome of many a routine traffic stop. Unfortunately for most drivers, what is a routine occurrence for a cop is hardly a typical experience for the average person.

There are a variety of strange activities and odd behaviors on the road that can garner a police officer’s immediate attention and, in the process, get a driver in very hot water. Especially if an individual has had a drink or two prior to the traffic stop, which might leave the odor of alcohol on the driver’s breath, there is a strong chance that the officer is going to suspect some kind of intoxication, at least initially. But, once again, it can often be some minor driving mistake that betrays a motorist and triggers a roadside police stop.

As New Jersey DWI defense lawyers, our job is to defend those accused of DWI and drug DUI, among other offenses. We typically view most drunk driving arrests with a skeptical eye until all of the facts are in. Although a motorist may have had a beer or glass of wine in the hours preceding the arrest, he or she may not necessarily have been legally drunk at that time. Furthermore, even if a driver is found to have been legally over the limit — by a breath or blood test — the law calls for certain procedures to be followed by the police in order for the initial stop, as well as the actual arrest to be ruled justified.

Occasionally, a person may have the charges against them dropped or reduced due to technical problems with some portion of the arrest. Naturally, this doesn’t mean that every defendant can easily avoid a DWI or drug DUI conviction, but it does mean that consulting with a qualified drunken driving defense attorney may help to part the clouds and shed some light on a potentially faulty arrest.

Unfortunately, many DWI-DUI arrests happen as a result of an unwise or silly driving error on the part of a driver, which may grab the attention of some nearby municipal or state police officer. Aside from an egregious moving violation, instances of skewed parking maneuvers, delayed or halting movement at a green traffic light, or even a simple vehicle equipment problem can elicit an undesirable response by a patrolman. Take for instance a situation that took place last fall in Morris County.

According to news reports, a 48-year-old woman was stopped by police in Pequannock, NJ, last September after a police officer observed her driving along Jackson Ave. with her driver door open. Based on police reports, the incident took place along a stretch of southbound Rte 23 at the intersection in the early morning hours on a Thursday. The Franklin resident, in the driver’s seat of a Ford Escort, was sitting at a stop light with her door open and apparently trying to grab something off the ground. As the vehicle rolled backward a short distance, the woman reportedly saw the light change, after which the vehicle moved forward in a jerky fashion, crossing Rte 23 with the door still partially open.

Making a traffic stop, the officer in charge allegedly smelled the strong odor of alcohol coming from the Ford. Police reports indicated that the woman exhibited signs of inebriation and was taken into custody after failing several of the standardized field sobriety tests. She was eventually charged with careless driving and DWI, among other offenses. She was held through the morning until she was released pending a court hearing.

Open driver’s door at traffic light leads to DWI arrest in Pequannock, cops say; NJ.com; September 13, 2013