Don’t believe for one second that being “arrested” for drunk driving in Bergen, Monmouth, Ocean or any other county in the Garden State will automatically lead to a conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol. The fact is a lot can happen between a DWI-related traffic stop and any sentencing for an intoxicated driving summons.
As experienced New Jersey drunk driving defense attorneys, I and my colleagues know that the situation is not always that dire. Over and over, our staff is asked by potential clients about the true practicality of fighting an intoxicated driving charge. A typical response? Pleading guilty to a drunken driving charge is certainly not the way to win.
Municipal prosecutors in charge of DWI cases will typically point to a number of factors in an effort to “prove” in court that an individual was operating a motor vehicle in an impaired state. These include: 1) the odor of alcohol on the driver’s breath; 2) police observations that the subject was driving in an “erratic” manner; 3) the suspect “appeared” disheveled or carried himself as if he was intoxicated by liquor; 4) demonstrated poor performance of the standard field sobriety tests; and finally, 5) was deemed legally intoxicated based on the blood-alcohol content (BAC) results from a breath or blood test.
What prosecutors will not tell you, nor be eager to point out, is that each of these “evidence” types can be quite ambiguous from a legal standpoint. This is why one should always seek the services of a qualified DWI attorney. Much of the so-called evidence collected by the police during a drunk driving stop, sobriety checkpoint or DWI roadblock is subject to a range of interpretation and can often be unreliable — resulting in faulty assumptions.
One potential defense stems from the fact that factors other than inebriation from beer, wine or hard liquor can cause poor performance on the standardized field sobriety tests. Actually, performing poorly on drunken driving field sobriety tests may be the result of other factors, such as:
— Testing a person on an uneven or slippery surface — Being distracted by the patrol car’s flashing lights or nearby traffic — If the test area is too dark or amidst glaring lights — Testing the takes place in cold, rainy or windy weather conditions
— If the driver is wearing unsuitable footwear, such as boots, high heels or dress shoes
— If the motorist is nervous, anxious or frustrated by the situation
These are a few of the possible causes of poor sobriety field test performance. We’ll discuss some more effects in another installment.