Garden State Drunk Driving Law Update: Jersey Motorists Charged with DWI Should Seek Help

Considering the zealousness with which New Jersey law enforcement pursues drunken drivers, it’s not hard to imagine that local prosecutor’s offices are equally dedicated to convicting accused drunken drivers. With that in mind, it is important to remind anyone who has been charged with an alcohol- or drug-related driving offense that consulting with a qualified DWI-DUI defense attorney is often a good idea.

Our law firm serves the residents of New Jersey in counties such as Bergen, Monmouth, Ocean and Middlesex, among others. My colleagues and I know the ramifications involved with a DWI conviction — even on a first-time offense — not only in terms of the financial impact that may await a defendant, but also the potential social stigma attached to a drunk driving conviction. This is in addition to possible jail time, as well, though with the assistance of a skilled drunk driving defense attorney the odds of serving time behind bars is greatly reduced.

Even with the potential penalties hanging over the head of a motorist accused of DWI or drug DUI, quite a few drivers may still wonder whether or not hiring a New Jersey DWI lawyer is worth the trouble. This is because many drivers who are facing a DWI summons may simply consider the battle already lost once the charges are lodged against them. As experienced trial attorneys, we must say that there are numerous arguments why individuals should consider fighting a drunken driving charge.

Naturally, the most important reason for taking your case to court is that motorists who seriously and aggressively challenge charges of driving while intoxicated have some chance at completely avoiding many of the negative consequences associated with a conviction. On the other hand, defendants who choose to plead guilty without putting up any kind of fight have a 100-percent chance of conviction and may face some serious penalties as a result.

An important point to remember, and we cannot stress this enough, is that an arrest for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or prescription drugs does not necessarily mean that one will end up being convicted of the charge or charges. Keeping this in mind, it must be said that there are numerous ways to defend an accused drunk driver in a New Jersey courtroom. Some of the potential defenses against a DWI charge include the following:

Illegal Traffic Stop
A municipal patrolman or state trooper does not have the legal right to stop a motorist without first having a “reasonable and articulable” reason on which to base his decision to pull a vehicle over. The officer must believe that the law has been violated, or that the vehicle was being driven in an unusual manner. Certainly, there is usually no basis for a traffic stop simply because a policeman observes a driver exiting a bar or pub, and then getting into a car and driving away. If an officer only has a hunch that a driver is inebriated, that is not reasonable and any resulting DWI charge would likely be dismissed in court.

Poor Driving Conditions
Bad weather, such high winds, low visibility, icy roadways, and other inclement conditions can be pointed to as legitimate reasons for why a driver may have exhibited poor lane control prior to a traffic stop, as well as a possible inability to correctly perform many of the standardized field sobriety tests at the roadside. A skilled DWI defense lawyer can check the climate data for the time and date of the arrest to determine if weather conditions may have played a role in a police stop or eventual arrest of a driver.

Implied Consent Warning
Under New Jersey law, a police officer is legally required to read to an accused drunk driver the state’s Implied Consent Law prior to administering a breathalyzer test. The simple failure of an officer to read the form to the motorist — or even if the patrolman incorrectly reads the law — could result in a dismissal of charges during the defendant’s DWI hearing.

Inaccurate Blood Test
IN the absence of a breath test, the police may sometimes use a direct blood test to measure a driver’s blood-alcohol content (BAC). However, the admissibility of blood testing depends on procedures used in the process of obtaining a blood sample. This includes the physical taking of the motorist’s blood, as well as the preservation of the sample and the testing protocols used to obtain a BAC measurement. This applies to the police, as well as medical facilities not affiliated with the police.

From time to time, hospital staff instructed to take a blood sample will fail to follow proper evidence protocol necessitated by New Jersey law. This can include using an alcohol-based swab to sterilize the site of the blood draw. Even if a swab is believed to be alcohol-free, there can be some trace of alcohol. In such instances, a possible “motion to exclude” may be presented by the defense. Occasionally, hospital BAC tests have been known to overestimate alcohol content by as much as 25 percent in healthy, uninjured individuals.

Right to a Speedy Trial
As basic as it is, an individual’s right to a speedy trial is something that can sometimes be overlooked by the local prosecutor or municipal court handling the case. While this may not seem to be ground for a dismissal in a drunk driving case, it is true that the state has an obligation to provide a defendant with a trial within specified time periods. If this basic right is not provided to an individual, the defendant’s attorney has the right to motion for dismissal. State guidelines require New Jersey drunken driving cases be resolved within 60 days of the arrest date.

As can be seen, there are numerous opportunities for an accused drunk driver to avoid a conviction for some or all of the charges lodged against him or her. Whether a motorist has been charged with breath test refusal, driving while intoxicated by alcohol, or impaired by prescription drugs or illegal substances, there is no reason not to consult with a qualified DWI defense attorney. As experienced civil and criminal trial lawyers, we highly recommend having a legal expert on your side when fighting a DWI or drug DUI offense.