As long-time Garden State drunken driving defense lawyers, my colleagues and I have seen just about everything over the nearly 100 years of our combined legal careers. In our capacity as litigators for New Jersey motorists, representing individuals accused of intoxicated driving or drug DUI has given us more than a little insight into the variety of alcohol-, prescription drug- and illegal substance-related traffic arrests. Quite simply, we understand the many and varied ways that drivers can be stopped and charged with driving under the influence.
For most motorists, at least those served with summonses or arrested for an alcohol- or drug-related offense, the usual scenario does not involve a serious traffic accident. In many instances, a driver will have been stopped after being observed making some kind of simple driving error or even a more overt moving violation, such as speeding, improper passing or running a red light.
It is only after one of these routine traffic stops that a police officer may question the driver regarding his activities prior to the stop. Although New Jersey law prohibits a patrolman from stopping a motorist purely on a “hunch” that the driver is inebriated, once stopped at the roadside, the line of questioning may lead to suspicion of drinking and driving, or even some kind of drug-related DUI.
The same could be said for instances where cars are being flagged over at a scheduled DWI roadblock, also known as a sobriety checkpoint. Again, in this kind of situation, the driver and passengers may be asked a number of questions pertaining to their activities prior to the stop. Most police and safety advocates would much rather have individuals be charged with drunk driving during these kinds of traffic stops, rather than the alternative — a roadway collision of some type.
An important distinction would be that a routine traffic stop rare involves injuries or death, which cannot be said for many DWI- or drug DUI-related traffic accidents. We have mentioned this on numerous occasions in the past, but being accused of DWI in connection with an injury-related car crash, or worse, a fatal turnpike or highway wreck, is much more serious than picked issued a summons following a minor traffic violation.
However, these kinds of scenarios occur very often in the Garden State. Not long ago, we ran across two separate instances of alcohol-related traffic fatalities. In the first case, a 40-year-old female driver from the North Bergen area was arrested and charged with DWI assault by auto after her Hummer struck a cyclist along a stretch of River Rd. late on a Friday evening. According to the news report, the suspect’s vehicle hit the bicycle’s back wheel and effectively throwing the rider to the ground.
Officers arriving on the scene reported that the accident, which resulted in the cyclist striking his head on the pavement, took place a little before 11pm. The critically injured rider was transported to Hackensack University Medical Center for emergency treatment, while the driver of the Hummer was arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated, reckless driving and vehicular assault. She was eventually released on $15,000 bail pending an appearance in municipal court.
In a second instance a day earlier, three people were injured and one individual died in a reportedly alcohol-related traffic accident along a stretch of the New Jersey Turnpike near Newark. The crash took place, according to NJ State Police reports, around 1:30am on a Saturday morning. In what appears to have been a single-vehicle accident, the driver of a car carrying four other people was charged by police with driving under the influence.
Based on news reports, the vehicle struck a concrete barrier after the driver somehow lost control of the car. As a result, one passenger died when he was apparently thrown from the vehicle, while another occupant received a severe neck injury. Two others and the driver were apparently injured as well.
1 killed, 3 injured in DWI crash on Turnpike; NJ.com; May 11, 2014
Jersey City bicyclist critically hurt, woman charged in Edgewater crash; NJ.com; May 10, 2014