New Jersey Lawyer Found Not Guilty of Obstruction During Client’s DWI Police Stop

A lawyer from the Salem County area was found not guilty of charges he obstructed police during a drunken driving stop involving one of his clients last fall. According to news articles, the attorney appeared in a Woodbury Heights municipal courtroom with his own lawyer to address the charges that he interfered with New Jersey state troopers after they had pulled a vehicle over in Pilesgrove Twp. last November 24.

According to court records, on the evening of November 24, state patrol officers responded to a report of a hit-and-run traffic accident along a stretch of Point Airy Rd. in Salem County. Arriving at the scene, officers found a pickup truck matching the description of a vehicle allegedly involved in the earlier hit-and-run incident. The state trooper first on the scene stated to the court that the driver, 53-year-old local resident David Stout, began to exit his truck as she approached the vehicle, but got back into the truck when requested by the officer.

Based on news reports, the state troopers had been interviewing Mr. Stout for just a few minutes when a second civilian vehicle pulled up to scene. A man identified as Stout’s lawyer exited the passenger side of the second car, allegedly to advise his client to remain silent. Much of the event was apparently recorded by the state trooper’s dash-mounted video camera, according to police reports.

Prior to the arrival of Stout’s attorney, police interviewed the driver, during which the officers reportedly detected the odor of alcohol on the driver’s breath, as well as from inside the man’s vehicle. Continuing with their investigation, officers asked the suspect to perform one of the several standardized field sobriety tests, which is when the man’s attorney arrived and approached the officers.

Court records indicate that Stout’s lawyer walking quickly toward the police officers as they conducted the field sobriety test, telling them, “I’m his lawyer. Plead the Fifth.” Based on news articles, two other troopers told the lawyer to go back, get in his vehicle, and leave the scene. While the two officers insisted that the solicitor leave the scene, the other trooper reportedly continued to conduct the field sobriety test.

What also brought on the obstruction charge, or so it appears, is that during the sobriety test, the motorist’s lawyer continued to yell advice to his client, advising him to plead the Fifth Amendment, all of which was reportedly very distracting to the officers conducting the roadside stop. Court records showed that one of the state police officers continually asked the attorney to leave the scene, but he did not comply. Eventually, he was placed under arrest himself after he allegedly tried to side-step the officers and in an effort to get to his client.

During the attorney’s obstruction case, Judge Thomas G. Heim reportedly had some harsh words for the lawyer, telling him that what he tried to do that evening was “foolish, insensitive and stupid.” Despite the charges lodged against the man’s attorney, the court reportedly could not find sufficient evidence that showed the attorney purposefully obstructed the police from carrying out their duty. Yet, the judge did admonish the lawyer in so much as he believed that what the solicitor did that evening was disruptive and resulted in affecting the demeanor of his client; police had reportedly said that Stout’s attitude had shifted to that of being less cooperative once his lawyer arrived and began advising him of his Constitutional rights.

Salem County solicitor not guilty of obstruction in client’s DWI stop, NJ.com, March 26, 2014