Having worked both sides of the aisle — previously as a municipal prosecutor and now as a defense attorney — I understand the methods and strategies that the state’s attorneys employ to attain drunken driving convictions in court. As New Jersey DWI defense lawyer, I and my colleagues represent all manner of clients, many of whom have been accused of driving while intoxicated, operating a motor vehicle under the influence of prescription medications (drug DUI) and even illicit drugs, such as cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana.
One thing we know, as drunk driving defense attorneys, is that a DWI arrest (much less an actual conviction for impaired driving) can greatly affect one’s future employment, social standing, and family/marital relationships. While we understand that a drunk driving arrest is not desirable by any means, we also know that this does happen to many people, from all walks of life, and nearly every profession.
Surprisingly, even police officers can end up being arrested for drunken driving. From my years as a prosecuting attorney, I have a great respect for the hard work and dangers faced by our law enforcement officer every day. On the other hand, as a DWI defense attorney, I understand how easy it is for motorists to be accused of drunken driving here in the Garden State. What I cannot abide is when patrolmen and other officers of the court flout the very laws they are sworn to uphold and enforce.
Not long ago, a police officer from the Midland Park PD was charged with drunken driving when he was ticketed for crashing an all-terrain vehicle while allegedly under the influence of alcohol. Based on news reports, the accident occurred in Wyckoff when off-duty Midland Park patrolman, Joseph Gaeta crashed a four-wheeled ATV at the intersection of Greenhaven Rd. and Godwin Ave. during the mid afternoon.
Ironically, Gaeta had earlier that day been a non-uniformed participant in a DWI demonstration at the Bergen County Police Academy located in Mahwah, NJ. During the educational session, which was taught by representatives of the New Jersey State Police, Gaeta had apparently volunteered as a “controlled” drinking subject for the drunken driving class. During the session, the man was reportedly provided with a number of measured amounts of alcohol.
According to police, the class in which Gaeta was participating was designed to allow officers to observe subjects take breathalyzer tests before and after drinking certain amounts of alcohol. During the demonstration, Gaeta was reportedly given a breath test, at which time his blood-alcohol content was measured at 0.13 percent. Afterward, the man was given a ride home by another, sober, officer.
Strangely, news reports indicate that Gaeta, upon returning to his home, decided to ride an ATV along a stretch of Godwin Avenue. The accident apparently happened when the officer attempted a right-hand turn onto Greenhaven Rd; it was there where he reportedly lost control of the vehicle, which in turn flipped over.
Police reports indicate that the man received a number of serious injuries to his face, and that emergency responders transported Gaeta to the Hackensack University Medical Center for treatment. In a weird twist of fate, the off-duty policeman was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, along with several other traffic offenses.
Bergen officer charged with DWI after flipping ATV on street, CliffviewPilot.com, December 16, 2011