Articles Posted in DWI Defenses

Under New Jersey law, prior to conducting field sobriety tests on a person, the police must have reasonable suspicion that the person is intoxicated. Odtherwise, the results of the field sobriety tests may be inadmissible. There is no single fact that constitutes sufficient grounds to reasonable suspicion, however, and in some instances, numerous factors that in and of themselves are insufficient to raise suspicion may combine to justify a DWI investigation, as shown in a recent case arising out of New Jersey. If you are charged with committing a DWI offense in New Jersey, and you believe the police did not have sufficient grounds to conduct an investigation, it is prudent to confer with a trusted New Jersey DWI defense attorney regarding your rights.

Factual Background

Allegedly, a police officer observed the defendant making an illegal left hand turn into the parking lot of a drug store, after which the officer stopped the defendant. When he approached the car, the officer noticed an odor of alcohol emanating from the vehicle but believed it may be coming from one of the passengers. The defendant denied drinking, but the officer administered a horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test on the defendant regardless, while the defendant was seated in the driver’s seat. The officer observed a lack of smooth pursuit during the test, after which he asked the defendant to exit the vehicle. The defendant then submitted to field sobriety testing.

It is reported that the defendant was ultimately arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated. He filed a motion to suppress the result of his field sobriety tests, which the court denied. The defendant then entered a conditional guilty plea and appealed the denial of his motion to suppress. Continue reading

People often refer to New Jersey as the Garden State, in part due to the high number of farms throughout the state. As such, it should come as no surprise that many people who live in New Jersey own tractors.  Although people typically do not use tractors as a primary means of transportation, the New Jersey police can nonetheless charge a person with a DWI for operating a tractor while intoxicated as demonstrated in a recent New Jersey appellate court ruling. If you are faced with DWI charges in New Jersey arising out of your operation of a non-traditional vehicle, it is prudent to speak with a capable New Jersey DWI defense attorney regarding your rights.

Factual Background

It is alleged that a police officer stopped the defendant while he was operating a tractor on the shoulder of a highway. The tractor was not insured or registered with the Department of Motor Vehicles. The defendant agreed to submit to a breath test, which revealed his blood alcohol content to be 0.32%. Additionally, he admitted that he was traveling from a bar where he consumed five to six beers back to his home. The defendant was charged with DWI but argued that he was not guilty, on the basis that tractors do not fall under the definition of motor vehicles as defined by New Jersey law. The defendant was found guilty, after which he appealed.

Definition of a Motor Vehicle for New Jersey DWI Purposes

The sole issue on appeal was whether a farm tractor qualifies as a motor vehicle for purposes of the New Jersey DWI statute. Under New Jersey law, a person can be convicted of driving while intoxicated if he or she operates a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content of 0.08% or higher or while under the influence of alcohol. The court noted that broad readings are afforded to the terms of the DWI statute, to effectuate the intent of the legislature to thwart harm caused by drunk driving accidents. Continue reading

Many people who travel through New Jersey are from other states, but that does not mean they are immune to penalties imposed by New Jersey courts, including sentences in DWI cases. In other words, simply because a driver is licensed in another state does not mean that he or she cannot be required to install an ignition interlock device in his or her car if he or she is convicted of a DWI offense, as demonstrated in a recent case ruled on by the appellate division of the Superior Court of New Jersey. If you were charged with a New Jersey DWI offense, regardless of where you reside, it is wise to consult an assertive New Jersey DWI defense attorney to discuss your possible defenses.

Factual Background

Reportedly, the defendant, who was a licensed Pennsylvania driver, was charged with driving while intoxicated, reckless driving, and refusing to submit to a breath test. He entered into a negotiated plea agreement by which he agreed to plead guilty to the charge of refusing to submit to a breath test, in exchange for dismissals of the remaining charges. He was subsequently sentenced to the loss of his New Jersey driving privileges for seven months and was required to install an ignition interlock device on his vehicle for thirteen months. The defendant argued that, as an out of state driver, he was not required to install the ignition interlock device. The court rejected the defendant’s argument, and the defendant appealed.

Application of New Jersey DWI Laws

On appeal, the defendant argued that the trial court erred in imposing the requirement that the defendant install an ignition interlock device for refusing to submit to a breath test because he was a licensed Pennsylvania driver. The appellate court disagreed. The court explained that in interpreting a statute, a court must evaluate the plain language of the statute and employ common sense in determining the meaning of the words chosen by the legislature, drawing inferences based on the statute’s composition. If the language of the statute is clear and straightforward, the process of interpretation is over, whereas if the statute is vague, the court must rely on intrinsic evidence. Continue reading

An issue commonly disputed in New Jersey DWI cases is whether the State has sufficient evidence to establish that the defendant was operating a vehicle while intoxicated. Due to several recent unpublished opinions set forth by the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey, the court set forth a published opinion in which it clarified in explicit terms what constitutes operation for the purposes of a DWI conviction. If you reside in New Jersey and are faced with DWI charges it is prudent to confer with a vigilant New Jersey DWI defense attorney to assess what options you may exercise to protect your rights.

Facts Surrounding the Defendant’s Arrest

It is alleged that the police were called to a grocery store parking lot to investigate the defendant, who was sleeping in his car with the engine running. The officer awoke the defendant, who smelled like alcohol and advised that he had been sleeping for about half an hour. The officer also observed several prescription pill bottles on the passenger seat. The defendant agreed to submit to numerous field sobriety tests, all of which he failed. As such, he was arrested and charged with DWI and refusing to submit to a breath test. Following a trial, he was convicted on both charges. He then appealed, arguing that the State could not prove he was operating his vehicle at the time of his arrest.

Operating a Vehicle Under the New Jersey DWI Statute

On appeal, the court noted that while a violation of N.J.S.A. 39:4-50(a) is usually referred to as a DWI, the statute does not actually mention driving as an element of the crime that must be proven in order to obtain a conviction. Rather, the statute merely prohibits a person from operating a vehicle while under the influence. The court noted that operation has been broadly interpreted and includes more than just driving. In other words, it includes sleeping or sitting in a car with the engine running, even if the car is not moving. Continue reading

One of the key elements of a New Jersey DWI charge is the operation of a vehicle. If the State is unable to prove this element, a person charged with DWI should not be convicted. The Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, recently re-affirmed, however, that operation is not limited to actually driving a vehicle, and a defendant can be found to be operating a vehicle even if the vehicle was in park at the time of the police’s investigation into the matter. If you are charged with DWI, even though you did not drive a vehicle while intoxicated, you should consult a proficient New Jersey DWI defense attorney to discuss what defenses you may be able to assert.

Factual Background

It is reported that a police officer observed the defendant sleeping in the driver’s seat of a car that was parked in the lot of a convenience store. The car was parked properly, but the engine was running. The officer attempted to wake the defendant many times before he finally awoke. When the defendant opened his window, he smelled of alcohol. It took him several attempts to turn off his vehicle, and his conversation with the officer was incoherent.

It is alleged that the officer performed field sobriety tests on the defendant, which the defendant failed. He was subsequently arrested and charged with DWI and reckless driving. He was convicted of DWI, second offense. He then appealed, arguing that the State failed to prove he operated a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. Continue reading

In many instances, even if a person is convicted of DWI, he or she may be able to obtain post-conviction relief. While there are substantive requirements a person must meet to obtain a reversal of a DWI conviction, there are procedural requirements as well. This was discussed in a recent case in which the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, affirmed the denial of a defendant’s petition for post-conviction relief, due to the defendant’s extreme delay in seeking such relief. If you were previously convicted of DWI or currently face DWI charges, it is wise to speak with a New Jersey DWI defense attorney to your options for protecting your rights.

Background of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant pled guilty to two separate DWI charges twenty-eight and twenty-five years before he filed two petitions for post-conviction relief in 2018, asking the court to allow him to withdraw his guilty pleas. The defendant argued, in part, that he was not represented by an attorney for the first conviction, and that for both convictions, the court did not elicit the factual basis for either conviction, and he was not informed of his potential defenses or the consequences of entering a guilty plea. The municipal court denied the petitions, after which the defendant appealed. On appeal, the Superior Court affirmed.

Procedural Requirements for Seeking Post-Conviction Relief

Under New Jersey law, any petition seeking post-conviction relief must be filed within five years after a conviction is entered, or a sentence is imposed, unless the defendant can demonstrate that the delay in filing was due to his or her excusable neglect. In the subject case, the defendant argued that the delay was caused by his lack of knowledge regarding the law and his ignorance of the consequence of DWI convictions. Thus, the court found that the defendant failed to establish that his neglect in filing the petitions in a timely manner was excusable. Continue reading

A person charged with a DWI has the right to a prompt resolution of his or her case. Thus, if the State unjustly delays prosecution of a case, it may result in a dismissal. A DWI defendant seeking dismissal of his or her charges due to a delay must prove certain criteria, however. In a recent case, the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey examined the factors assessed in evaluating whether a DWI defendant’s constitutional right to a speedy trial has been violated. If you are faced with charges of a DWI offense, it is prudent to consult a seasoned attorney to discuss your rights and your options for seeking a favorable result.

Factual and Procedural History of the Case

A police officer stopped the defendant for failing to stay within the lines of the road. When the officer approached the defendant’s vehicle, he noted an odor of alcohol emanating from the vehicle and from the defendant’s breath. The defendant underwent a series of field sobriety tests, which he was unable to perform. He was arrested for DWI, and he agreed to submit to a breath test, but he did not produce enough breath for the police to obtain an accurate reading. He was charged with DWI and numerous other charges.

In October 2016, the defendant pleaded not guilty and demanded a speedy trial. The trial was continually delayed, however. The defendant filed multiple motions to dismiss on the ground that his right to a speedy trial was violated, but the motions were denied. Then, in 2018, the defendant filed a conditional guilty plea to the DWI charge, and the remaining charges were dismissed. The defendant then appealed the denial of his motion to dismiss to the law division. The law division affirmed, and the defendant appealed to the Superior Court.

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When a person is charged with a DWI crime, it does not necessarily mean that he or she will be convicted. To the contrary, in some cases, the State’s evidence will be insufficient, or the State will be precluded from introducing evidence against the defendant, due to the manner in which it was obtained. In some cases, even if the State can prove that a defendant drove while intoxicated, the defendant may be able to avoid a conviction by arguing the affirmative defense of necessity. In a recent DWI case, the appellate division of the Superior Court of New Jersey discussed what a defendant alleging necessity must prove to avoid a guilty verdict.  If you are charged with a DWI crime, it is wise to speak to an experienced attorney regarding your available defenses.

Facts and Proceedings of the Underlying Case

Allegedly, police officers found the defendant asleep in the driver’s seat of her car in the parking lot of a grocery store. Her lights were on, and the keys were in the ignition. When the officers questioned the defendant, they noticed a strong odor of alcohol, and she admitted to drinking seven shots of liquor. She was arrested for DWI, and a breath sample revealed her BAC to be .19%. She was charged with DWI and reckless driving. She pleaded guilty to the DWI charge and was sentenced.

The defendant subsequently filed a motion to vacate her guilty plea, arguing the defense of necessity. The court denied her motion, and the defendant appealed to the Law Division. Her appeal to the Law Division was also denied, after which she appealed to the Superior Court. On review, the Superior Court affirmed the lower courts’ decisions, finding, in part, that the defendant failed to prove that the elements of necessity required a reversal.

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While most DWI charges arise out of traffic stops effectuated due to a traffic violation, under New Jersey law, a person may be charged with a DWI even if they are not actually observed driving a vehicle. Instead, the State must prove that a defendant charged with a DWI was operating a vehicle at the time of his or her arrest. As demonstrated in a recent case in which the defendant was convicted of a DWI despite the fact that he was sleeping in his car prior to his arrest, operation is broadly defined and is not limited to driving. If you are charged with a DWI offense, it is advisable to consult a trusted New Jersey DWI defense attorney to examine the evidence that the State may try to introduce to prove your guilt.

Facts of the Case

Reportedly, a police officer noticed a truck parked in a restaurant parking lot early in the morning. The restaurant was not open at the time, and there were no other cars in the lot. The officer approached the truck, which was running, and observed the defendant sleeping in the driver’s seat, with an empty beer can in the center console. Upon questioning by the officer, the defendant, who smelled of alcohol and had slurred speech, stated that he had consumed a few beers at a casino in Atlantic City and then dropped off a friend.

The defendant failed a field sobriety test, after which he was arrested and transported to the police station. A breath test conducted at the police station revealed the defendant’s blood alcohol level to be .17%. The defendant was charged with and convicted of DWI. The defendant then appealed, averring that there was insufficient evidence to show that he was operating his truck while he was impaired by alcohol. Continue reading

Simply because a person is convicted of DWI does not mean that the person has no options for seeking relief from the conviction. Rather, under New Jersey law, if a criminal defendant produces sufficient evidence that his or her conviction should be vacated, the person may be eligible for post-conviction relief. In a recent New Jersey DWI case, the court explained the standard for granting post-conviction relief in DWI cases and when a request for such relief must be filed. If you are charged with a DWI and have prior DWI convictions, it is important to speak with a seasoned New Jersey DWI defense attorney regarding your options.

Factual and Procedural Background of the Case

Allegedly, in 2018, when the defendant was charged with DWI, she sought post-conviction relief for a 1980 DWI conviction. In her petition for relief, the defendant verified that she was not represented by counsel when she pled guilty for the prior offense and that she had not been informed of her right to counsel. She also requested relief from an enhanced custodial term. The trial court denied the defendant’s petition, after which she appealed. During the pendency of the appeal, the Supreme Court of New Jersey clarified the grounds for granting post-conviction relief from an enhanced custodial sentence for a subsequent DWI conviction.

Standard for Granting Post Conviction Relief in a DWI Case

On appeal, the court noted that the trial court denied the defendant’s petition, in part, because it was filed beyond the five-year time limitation set forth under the current law. The trial court also held that the plaintiff had not established a prima facie case that she was entitled to relief. Continue reading

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