Articles Posted in Atlantic County DWI Defense

As long as DWI checkpoints and sobriety roadblocks have been used in this state there have been detractors who ask if the cost in equipment, manpower and officer overtime is really worth the effort of bringing in a handful of alleged drunken drivers from time to time. Here in the Garden State, the random operation of sobriety checkpoints certainly has given more than one driver pause to get behind the wheel of his or her car following an evening with friends at a restaurant, bar or private residence.

As long-time DWI defense attorneys, I and my team of experienced trial lawyers have dedicated ourselves to helping those motorists who believe that they did not deserve being charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. One of the many ways in which New Jersey drivers end up in front of a municipal or county judge is when they are arrested for DWI or drug DUI at one of the numerous drunk driving roadblocks that go up on weekends and during various national holidays.

Although law enforcement agencies throughout the state have it in their authority to set up sobriety roadblocks, there are limitations and rules that must be followed. For example, the police are required by law to place a public announcement (stating when and where) prior to the erection of any sobriety or DWI checkpoint. Furthermore, the placement of these roadblocks must be in an area that has a history of prior DWI activity; in other words, they cannot be placed anywhere the police authorities choose.
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Back in what some of us might call the good ol’ days, having an out-of-date license plate tag or being tardy in making an auto insurance payment was a secret that could mostly be kept to oneself, at least until a driver broke a traffic law right in front of a cop. But that’s hardly the case anymore. These days, the information age can quickly catch up to those procrastinating motorists and other drivers for whom the calendar is merely a seasonal guidepost. For those who might not worry so much about driving their vehicle while possibly intoxicated, whether they know it or not, Big Brother is watching.

As we’ve explained in the past, New Jersey state law defines when it is legal for a police officer to stop a motorist on the roadway, after which a drunk driving summons may be forthcoming depending on the officer’s suspicions and observations of the driver. But having a hunch that a motorist may be inebriated behind the wheel of his or her vehicle is not sufficient legal grounds in the Garden State for a patrolman to stop a vehicle. Acting on the suspicion that an individual is impaired by alcohol or prescription drugs (drug DUI) should only come into play following a legitimate traffic stop.

But what does it take to cause a municipal policeman or a New Jersey state trooper to decide that a driver is in violation of one or more traffic laws? Simple observation can result in a routine police stop if the officer in charge sees an obvious violation, such as an illegal U-turn, failure to yield at a stop sign, even cutting through a parking lot to avoid waiting at an intersection. These and many other scenarios are all typical ways in which New Jersey drivers are constantly getting into hot water with the police.
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Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past several decades you probably know almost intuitively that municipal patrolmen, as well as our New Jersey state troopers, all have a very keen eye for potentially impaired motorists. Making one’s way onto public roads in any condition other than fully sober can be a risky proposition not only in terms of safety to you, your passengers, and others on the road as well, but also financially.

As New Jersey DWI defense lawyers, I and my staff of skilled legal professionals have for many years been protecting the rights of individuals accused of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or prescription drugs (drug DUI). My legal team understands drunk driving law and the potential fines associated with a conviction for any number of alcohol-related offenses.

Another thing that we know from our decades of collective courtroom experience is that law enforcement officers and the prosecutors who handle drunk driving cases tend to have a singular goal of catching, convicting and punishing motorists who get behind the wheel of a car or truck while intoxicated. Whether it’s alcohol, doctor-prescribed medication, or illegal substances, the law has strict rules for dealing with offenders.
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The warm weather is fast upon us these days and that can only mean one thing to the nautically-minded among us: It’s boating season in the Garden State. Up and down the Jersey Shore and throughout the state’s inland waterways we will be seeing more and more small craft heading out from dock in the coming weeks.

As New Jersey drunk driving defense lawyers, we do know that just as we landlubbers must concern ourselves with an increase in the number of anti-DWI police patrols and sobriety roadblocks during the warmer months, boaters must also consider that drinking and boating is as much out of vogue as that of the automotive set. Quite frankly, boating under the influence (BUI) or alcohol or prescription drugs (drug DUI) carries with it similar and just as costly penalties as DWI does on land.

This is not without justification, though many people who ply the waters in and around Jersey may find it hard to believe that piloting a boat while slightly tipsy could be as dangerous as driving drunk on a busy freeway; but the state of New Jersey takes safety on our waterways very seriously, and hence the penalties for BUI are just as heavy as for motorists.
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Over the many years that my legal firm has been helping motorists accused of drunken driving, I and my associates have been asked more than a few times, “Why do I need a DWI lawyer when I step into a courtroom on a charge of driving while intoxicated?” The simple answer would be, “Because you owe it to yourself to be fully prepared to face the prosecution, which will do its best to prove you guilty of DWI or drug DUI.” But this is only one basic reason.

It’s not a secret that drivers in the Garden State face a tough situation when they are stopped on the highway after having a drink or two. It’s a mistake to assume that heavy drinkers and so-called “party animals” are the only people to be arrested for drunken driving by state or local police. For many, a simple drive home after dinner with friends can sometimes lead to a traffic stop, possibly for some basic moving violation, only to escalate into a full-blown DWI arrest and a trip to police headquarters.

As drunk driving defense attorneys, I and my team of experienced trial lawyers are fully up to the task of representing individuals who have been accused of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of liquor, beer, or doctor-prescribed medication. We know how scary a drunk driving arrest can be for normally law-abiding citizens. But the truly frightening thing about being arrested is that a conviction can result in serious and expensive consequences.
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As New Jersey DWI and drug DUI defense lawyers, we know that many people arrested for drunk driving are surprised, or at the very least shocked that they may be facing thousands of dollars in fines, penalties and assessments if they are found guilty of DWI in a court of law. A percentage of drunk driving and drug DUI arrests are made at sobriety checkpoints set up from time to time all around the Garden State. Other people can find themselves on the wrong side of the law following a simple traffic infraction, which then turns into a full-blown drunk driving arrest and a trip to the local police department for a breath test.

The point we would like to make is that whether one believes that there is too much or too little focus on DWI offenders, the law is specific that no one can legally drive in New Jersey with a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or more. (Of course, holders of commercial driver’s licenses, also known as CDLs, have an even lower BAC to which they must adhere.) The gist of this conversation is that state and local law enforcement officer are motivated to keep drunken drivers off the roads.

Certain campaigns, locally and nationally, are also used to keep a high level of enforcement, as well as attempt to educate the public to the dangers of DWI and drug DUI (including doctor-prescribed medications and illicit drugs like cocaine and marijuana). One such campaign that has been used in the Garden State is the HERO anti-DUI campaign, which this year was expanded to include the Jersey Shore.
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While the warm weather months are definitely behind us, New Jersey State Police and local law enforcement agencies note that parties and friendly get-togethers during the holidays also bring out the drinker in many drivers. As nearly anyone who drives in the Garden State understands, drunken driving enforcement never really lets up, especially during the peak holiday season.

As DWI defense lawyers serving residents of Bergen, Middlesex, Atlantic and other counties across the state, we are well versed in the tactics and strategies used by state and municipal police officers to secure the arrest of suspected drunk drivers. In fact, anyone who knowingly operates a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or, for that matter, prescription medication, should realize that the odds of being arrested for DWI or drug DUI can be quite high.

If a police officer witnesses a traffic violation, he or she will usually make a routine traffic stop based on that initial offense, minor as it may seem to the average driver. Once stopped, a motorist will be closely observed for signs of impairment, usually due to consumption of beer, wine or hard liquor. If the patrolman has a reasonable suspicion that the driver of a car, truck or motorcycle is inebriated an arrest is more or less forthcoming.
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For many New Jersey residents, rather than enjoy this past Labor Day weekend they likely spent most of their time cleaning up from the effects of tropical storm Irene. Still, in areas less affected, surely some Garden State drivers saw some increased drunken driving enforcement activities by state and local police. As part of the national “Over the Limit, Under Arrest” campaign, it’s a fair bet that dozens of motorists had encounters with law enforcement officers during what has become an annual anti-DWI effort.

Of course, it’s hardly a good idea to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of beer, wine or hard liquor, as well as illicit drugs such as marijuana and cocaine. But during the last two weeks, drivers who did take their chances by drinking and driving may have met with a DWI or drug DUI arrest or summons to appear in court.

This effort took place in nearly every county across New Jersey, including Bergen, Hudson, Union, Monmouth and Ocean, just to name a few. As a drunken driving defense lawyer and former municipal prosecutor myself, I understand how some individuals can be pickup up for driving while intoxicated, though perhaps be unaware that they were legally impaired at the time of their arrest.

Whether stopped by a rolling DWI patrol for an apparent minor traffic offense, or being waved into a sobriety checkpoint (also known as a DWI roadblock for observation by a police officer looking for drunken drivers, the resulting charges of drunken driving or impairment due to prescription medication or an illegal drug (also known as a controlled dangerous substance or CDS) can be costly in terms of fines and penalties, as well as the impact on an individual’s personal and business relationships or standing in the community.
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As New Jersey drunken driving defense attorneys we won’t argue that mixing alcohol with boating can lead to disaster, but at the same time it is certain that many people who are arrested for drunken boating (boat DUI or “BUI”) may have been falsely charged. Of course, if this is the situation then a person must take their case to court. Why? Because BUI has the same implications and potential penalties as driving a motor vehicle while intoxicated.

Drunken boating offenses, like that of drunk driving, are enforced by state and local police agencies. During enhanced BUI enforcement periods, anti-drunk-boating patrols can be manned by a combination of local police, New Jersey State Police and the United States Coast Guard (USCG). Just like the campaign that recently concluded, named “Operation Dry Water,” the USCG and New Jersey State Police teamed up to seek out boat operators whose blood-alcohol content (BAC) levels exceeded the national legal limit of 0.08 percent.

As many people already know, 0.08 percent is the identical value that can put a four-wheeled motorist on a course for a DWI conviction. In fact, according recent stats from the USCG, BUI is the main causal factor when it comes to fatal boating accidents — based on those figures, say news articles on the subject, 17 percent of private watercraft deaths can be traced directly back to some kind of alcohol consumption or drug use prior to the fatal accident.
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In the wake of controversy revolving around State Police Trooper Sheila McKaig’s alleged drinking and driving incidents over the years, the New Jersey State Police have implemented new standards aimed at curbing potential abuses of power that some have said police officers occasionally commit when they are stopped for offenses such as DWI.

In McKaig’s case, numerous news reports indicate that she was never ticketed even though the officer was stopped multiple times for driving while intoxicated over the course of three months back in 2008. In this particular situation, the judge in the case did not recommend firing the trooper outright on the grounds that that McKaig did seek counseling and has been considered a model for other police officers.

Back to the NJ State Police and its newly instituted policies for officers caught driving under the influence according to reports, the agency has reportedly launched a review of the use by troopers of so-called “undercover identification cards.” Along with this, orders from up the chain of command within the State Police reportedly increase the accountability on the part of higher-ranked officers and requires more careful review of traffic stops (including car accidents) that may have been related to alcohol consumption.

As a New Jersey drunken driving defense lawyer, I and my staff, understand that the police have a tough job of maintaining the peace and bringing alleged perpetrators to justice. However, when the rules cease to apply to the vary people entrusted with the public’s safety this is when our tolerance as individuals and a society begins to be tested.

According to news reports, policy changes at the State Police will place responsibility squarely on the shoulders of regional commanders when a trooper is suspected of operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol. In fact, based on information provided by local news sources, higher-ranking officers may even be required to respond themselves to the scene of a possibly alcohol-related traffic incident involving another law enforcement officer.
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