Articles Posted in DWI Defenses

Generally, a police officer may not lawfully stop a vehicle unless the officer reasonably believes or suspects that the driver of the vehicle committed a traffic violation or a crime. Additionally, if an officer violates a driver’s rights by stopping the driver without just cause, the State may be barred from using evidence obtained during the stop to demonstrate that the officer committed a crime. There are some exceptions to the rule, though, as shown in a recent case in which a New Jersey appellate court affirmed a defendant’s conviction for DWI that arose out of a community-caretaking stop. If you live in New Jersey and are charged with a DWI offense, it is smart to speak with a diligent New Jersey DWI defense attorney about what evidence the State could be permitted to use against you.

Facts of the Case

It is alleged that a police officer dispatched to a convenience store following a call from the store’s manager in which she reported that a patron who appeared to have been the victim of an assault was sitting in a car in the parking lot. When the officer arrived at the convenience store to do a welfare check, he observed the defendant driving out of the parking lot in a visibly upset condition. As such, the officer stopped the defendant’s vehicle to check on the defendant’s condition, as he believed she may have been the victim of domestic violence. After speaking with the defendant, the officer determined that she may have been under the influence of alcohol. The defendant was ultimately charged with DWI. Prior to trial, she filed a motion to suppress the evidence obtained during the stop, which the court denied. She pled guilty while reserving her right to appeal the denial of her motion to suppress. Following her sentencing, she appealed.

Evidence Obtained During a Community Caretaking Stop

The sole issue on appeal was whether the underlying stop of the defendant was unlawful. Generally, an officer may not initiate a stop unless the officer has an articulable and reasonable suspicion that the driver of the vehicle is violating the law, usually by committing a traffic violation. In the subject case, the State did not assert that the arresting officer observed the defendant violating a law prior to stopping the defendant but instead argued that the stop was lawful under the community-caretaking function of law enforcement. Continue reading

Under both the New Jersey and Federal Constitutions, defendants charged with DWI have numerous rights, including the right to a prompt resolution of the charges against them. Thus, if the State violates a defendant’s right to a speedy trial, the defendant may be able to argue for the dismissal of any pending charges or for a verdict to be vacated. Recently, in a New Jersey DWI case, the court set forth the standards for determining whether the defendant has been deprived of the constitutional right to a speedy trial. If you are charged with DWI, it is in your best interest to converse with a New Jersey DWI defense attorney to assess what rights you may be afforded under the law.

Factual History of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was stopped due to an improper lane change in December 2017. When the police officer that stopped the defendant spoke with the defendant, he noticed she smelled of alcohol. The defendant underwent field sobriety tests, which she failed. She was subsequently charged with DWI. She invoked her right to a speedy trial at her first court appearance later that month. After several hearings, a trial date was set for October 2018.

However, allegedly, when the trial commenced, the police officer that conducted the stop was not present. Thus, the defendant moved for dismissal of the charges due to the violation of the defendant’s right to a speedy trial. The court denied the defendant’s motion, and the trial was rescheduled for December 2018. The defendant ultimately pleaded guilty to her charges and was sentenced as a third time offender. She then appealed her conviction arguing, in part, that her right to a speedy trial was violated. Continue reading

In most instances in New Jersey, when a person is charged with DWI, the State will base the charges on the results of a chemical test showing the person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC). A BAC is not required to charge a person with DWI or to obtain a conviction, however, and if a DWI suspect refuses to submit to chemical testing, he or she may face additional charges, as demonstrated in a recent New Jersey DWI case. If you are charged with refusal to submit to a chemical test or any other DWI related offense, it is critical to speak to a skillful New Jersey DWI defense attorney regarding what measures you may be able to take to protect your interests.

Facts of the Case

Allegedly, the defendant was stopped by a police officer for repeatedly failing to maintain his lane on the roadway by driving onto the shoulder and into the opposing lane. After the police officer stopped the defendant, he noticed the defendant had bloodshot and watery eyes, sluggish movement, and smelled of alcohol. The defendant submitted to field sobriety tests, which he completed poorly. The officer attempted to administer a breath test, but the defendant refused to produce adequate air to produce a valid reading. The defendant was charged with operating a vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor and refusal to submit to a chemical test. Following a trial, he was convicted on both charges. He then appealed his convictions.

Sufficiency of Evidence of DWI

On appeal, the appellate court upheld the defendant’s DWI conviction. In other words, the court noted that the totality of the evidence introduced by the State was sufficient to support the ruling that the defendant was driving while under the influence of alcohol. Specifically, the appellate court stated that the State produced evidence that the defendant was suffering from a significant deterioration of his physical and mental capabilities which greatly affected his judgment as to make it improper for him to operate a vehicle on the road. The appellate court explained that the trial court was not required to accept the defendant’s reasoning as to why his eyes were bloodshot, stating the evidence was consistent with guilt. Continue reading

In many instances in which a person is convicted of a New Jersey DWI offense, he or she will appeal his or her municipal court conviction, and in some instances, will appeal a conviction from the Law Division as well. Whether an appeal from either court will be successful depends on several factors, however, and varies from case to case. Recently, a New Jersey appellate court discussed the standard of review that applies at each level in a case in which the defendant appealed his DWI conviction arguing, in part, that there was insufficient evidence to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If you are faced with accusations that you committed a New Jersey DWI crime, it is advisable to speak with a dedicated New Jersey DWI defense attorney to discuss your options for protecting your rights.

Factual Background

It is reported that the defendant was observed by an anonymous source leaving a beach wearing only a jacket, getting into a truck, and driving down a nearby road. The police investigated and found the defendant in the driver’s seat of a truck that was parked in the wrong direction. The police approached the vehicle and spoke with the defendant, who had slurred speech and was only wearing a jacket tied around his waist.

Allegedly, the defendant submitted to field sobriety tests, which he failed, after which he was arrested and transported to the police station for chemical testing. He was subsequently charged with DWI, careless driving, and reckless driving. He was convicted in the municipal court of DWI and careless driving, after which he appealed to the Law Division, where he was again found guilty. He then appealed to the Superior Court, arguing, in part, that the Law Division erred in finding him guilty de novo. Continue reading

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

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