Articles Posted in Field Sobriety Tests

Regardless of the nature of an initial roadside police stop — be it a burned-out headlamp, sliding through a controlled intersection without completely stopping, or drifting in and out of one’s lane — the opportunity for a drunk driving or drug DUI summons can go up appreciably depending on how the driver appears to the police officer in charge. Bloodshot eyes or an unsteady gait may cause a patrolman to suspect some kind of intoxication, though neither condition is a surefire sign of being drunk or impaired.

Despite what some people may believe, being charged for DWI-DUI based solely on watery eyes or some other vague observation is usually not sufficient to result in a conviction for driving while intoxicated; other evidence is needed beyond a more or less subjective assessment. Experienced DWI defense lawyers, such as the legal team at our law firm, can offer up a number of plausible explanations for a variety of conditions, from allergies and migraine headaches to very cold temperatures or high winds at the time of the arrest.

Since an arrest for DWI or drug DUI needs supporting evidence, as required by law, the prosecution will often attempt to prove that the defendant exhibited a “substantial deterioration or diminution” of his or her mental faculties/physical capabilities due to alcohol or hallucinogenic, narcotic or habit-producing drugs.
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Just like everyone else, police officers are human. And while patrolmen do have many special skills, as well as years of training in criminology and law enforcement, they are not psychics; however, they do know what to look for when it comes to human behavior on Garden State roadways. As DWI defense lawyers, the attorneys at my firm meet a near constant stream of people who have been charged with traffic infractions and other offenses. On the whole, few of these individuals ever expected to be awaiting a court date to determine whether or not they will be convicted of drinking and driving.

What most people do not realize — at least not until it is too late — is that local and state patrolmen have a keen eye for the telltale hints that a motorist may not be paying complete attention to the job of driving. Whether that sign is a poorly executed turn, driving noticeably below the posted speed limit or drifting repeatedly outside of one’s lane, a seasoned officer can probably anticipate the outcome of many a routine traffic stop. Unfortunately for most drivers, what is a routine occurrence for a cop is hardly a typical experience for the average person.

There are a variety of strange activities and odd behaviors on the road that can garner a police officer’s immediate attention and, in the process, get a driver in very hot water. Especially if an individual has had a drink or two prior to the traffic stop, which might leave the odor of alcohol on the driver’s breath, there is a strong chance that the officer is going to suspect some kind of intoxication, at least initially. But, once again, it can often be some minor driving mistake that betrays a motorist and triggers a roadside police stop.
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Last week, the Hackensack Municipal prosecutor’s office dropped two key summonses previously lodged against a River Vale resident who was initially under suspicion of impaired driving after her vehicle struck and killed a well-known local business man last fall. According to news articles, the prosecution essentially cleared 63-year-old Kathleen Gehm of any wrongdoing in the tragic auto-pedestrian collision that resulted in the death of 87-year-old Jerome Some on the evening of October 8.

Based on court records, the DWI and reckless driving charges were dropped by Frank Catania Jr., municipal prosecutor for the city of Hackensack. The motion to dismiss, which was just recently filed, came months after the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office decided not to pursue criminal charges against Ms. Gehm following a negative toxicology report on blood taken from her after the deadly traffic accident. Those toxicology results were returned from the lab last December.

According to news reports, Gehm’s lawyer stated that at the time of the incident his client was “extremely shaken up” and freezing as she stood in the cold evening air in sandals. This information was part of the defense’s argument to the court as to why the woman allegedly failed two field sobriety tests requested of her by police officers at the scene of the crash. As a result of those failed tests, police asked the woman to take a breath test, to which she did consent in hopes of clearing herself of a DWI charge.
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Most motorists, when charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, usually experience trepidation when facing an upcoming hearing to decide their guilt or innocence. Entering a courtroom without a firm knowledge of the law pertaining to DWI or drug DUI can be a misstep for many people, which can often lead to a conviction and all the associated fines, fees and assessments as provided by New Jersey’s drunk driving statutes.

As Garden State drunken driving defense attorneys, my staff of skilled trial lawyers understands how the state’s case — as pursued by many municipal prosecutors — can turn on the lack of evidence collected by the police during a DWI or DUI traffic stop. While some motorists may understand how the law works, many more can be at some disadvantage when they face a judge alone as the prosecuting attorney brings point after point in support of a guilty verdict.

As a former municipal prosecutor myself, I have worked on the other side of the aisle as advocate for the state. This background, which I share with several other members of my law firm, gives me additional insight into numerous strategies and legal tactics that the state may employ to obtain a drunk driving conviction. Of course, much of what counts as evidence in a DWI or drug DUI case is attained by police at the roadside, as well as back at police headquarters.
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The old saying, “It’s not what you know, but who you know,” could be applicable to almost any aspect of life. Whether you are looking for an experienced building contractor, a reliable snow removal company, or a skilled legal expert, it’s always best to do one’s homework in order to get the best and most qualified professional on your side. But, while many things in life can be put off, finding a good attorney is not necessarily one of them.

For anyone who has even been charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI) or driving under the influence of prescription medications (drug DUI), it is a fact that when staring at potential penalties in the hundreds to thousands of dollars, getting to know a good drunk driving defense lawyer can quickly become a top priority. Here in the Garden State, being convicted of DWI or DUI, not to mention breath test refusal, underage drunken driving, or marijuana possession in a motor vehicle can be a serious event in one’s life; and, one that will not soon be forgotten.

The often serious penalties awaiting those who are found guilty of drunk driving can include not only monetary fines and assessments, but also a likely driver’s license suspension, imposition of an ignition interlock device on one’s vehicle, not to mention the possibility of jail time. As anyone can imagine, being charged with an alcohol- or drug-related traffic offense can have serious ramifications for the motorist and his family.
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Rather few members of New Jersey’s law enforcement community have much sympathy when arresting drunk drivers here in the Garden State. And with the amount of energy devoted to stopping motorists who may or may not be inebriated, there should be no question as to the aim of most state and local DWI and drug DUI patrols; that is, to hand over to the local prosecutor’s office motorists who have in the eyes of the law very likely committed a drunken driving offense. Along with the defendant, police must also provide the municipal prosecutor with sufficient evidence to obtain a conviction.

Does it happen? Yes, indeed. Many people do have their day in court only to be found guilty and then have still penalties heaped upon them. The law is specific, not only in terms of the various criteria that must be met to attain a guilty verdict, but also the monetary penalties and other punitive actions, post-conviction, all provided for by this state’s drunken driving statutes. As DWI defense lawyers, our job is to consider all of the facts, particularly those held up by the prosecution as evidence that a motorist was truly drunk at the time of his or her arrest.

As drunk driving defense attorneys, my legal team knows that not every driver arrested for operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated was actually impaired beyond a reasonable doubt. My colleagues and I know that many people who are picked up for DWI-DUI — especially many first-time offenders — did not consciously decide to go out and break the law by driving drunk. However, once that traffic stop is made, and an officer suspects the driver of being impaired by alcohol or drugs, an arrest is most likely forthcoming, to be followed by formal charges and the setting of a hearing date in a municipal courtroom.
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A 53-year-old Plainfield, NJ, driver was taken into custody by members of the Garwood Police Department following a traffic accident near the intersection of South Ave. and Center St. According to news articles, a collision took place around 1am in the morning when a white van reportedly slammed into the back of another motor vehicle. Based on police information, a number of 911 calls were made calling officers to the scene as the driver of the van allegedly attempted to leave the scene of the crash.

Officers arrived shortly thereafter to find that one person had reportedly removed the driver of the van from his vehicle. Upon investigation, the patrolmen determined that the suspect was “so intoxicated” that he allegedly could not maintain his balance. As a result, the officers took the man into custody and arrested him for drunken driving. The other driver whose vehicle was hit complained to emergency responders of back pain and was transported to a local hospital for treatment.

The suspect was taken to police headquarters where he was charged with additional offenses, including a couple criminal complaints — vehicular assault and operating a motor vehicle on a suspended license reportedly due to multiple previous DWI convictions. The man was eventually released on $5,000 bail pending trial.
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While police in Cape May, Ocean, Atlantic and Monmouth counties are all rather busy with drunken driving activity during the warmer months, it is a certainty that all during the year New Jersey State Police, municipal patrolmen and other law enforcement officials are kept active with DWI and drug DUI arrests no matter what the season. And it goes without saying, as the New Year holiday approaches, that instances of drinking and driving tend to become more frequent thanks to family gatherings, office parties and overall holiday celebrations.

As Garden State drunk driving defense lawyers, my colleagues and I receive our share requests for no-obligation consultations from motorists who have been accused of impaired driving. While there is no single scenario that illustrates a typical drunken driving arrest, if the police are following proper procedures it generally begins with a legitimate traffic stop for a driving offense or vehicle violation.

If there was no legitimate reason for the initial police stop, then there may be grounds for a dismissal of the subsequent DWI-DUI charges. Most people who are stopped by police and then arrested and charged with operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol are well advised to seek the advice of a skilled attorney with expertise in the area of drunken driving law.
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Being accused of drunk driving when one knows he or she is not intoxicated can be a frustrating and potentially expensive event in any person’s life, but being told that you were drunk following an injury or fatal accident can have greater implications, many of which may be undeserved and possibly damaging in so many ways. As New Jersey DWI defense attorneys, my legal team knows that a percentage of alleged drunk driving accidents can occasionally not be attributable to drinking and driving. Proving it, however, can sometimes be a challenge.

It goes without saying that the injury or death of any innocent person is a tragedy that nobody ever wants to occur. Unfortunately, automobile accidents can and do happen with alarming frequency here in the Garden State. For a driver’s honest and tragic mistake lead to a drunken driving arrest without the proper legal evidence only compounds the sadness felt by all concerned.

Our firm has seen, time and time again, where police officers make wholly subjective observations that have led to the unjust arrest of motorists for driving under the influence of alcohol or prescription drugs. While this does not always happen, each instance of an unjustified arrest provides an object lesson for why it is imperative to consult with a qualified DWI-DUI defense attorney when confronted with a drunk driving summons or other related traffic offense.
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There is no doubt in our minds that the average person can be rattled by a police officer stopping him for a moving violation. The fact is, only a small percentage of the general public ever comes in contact with a law enforcement officer during their daily activities. This means that the only time that most people ever encounter a state trooper or municipal patrolman is when they have done something wrong in traffic and are pulled over for a routine violation.

When that happens, it is not uncommon for some individuals to act nervous or anxious , fumble with their license and registration paperwork, and generally have a tremble to their voice; some of the very behaviors that police officers may point to as signs of possible inebriation. As New Jersey DWI defense lawyers, my legal team is well aware of the difficult situation that any police stop poses for some drivers.

Of course, being asked if one has had anything to drink prior to getting behind the wheel can sometimes turn an anxious motorist into a DWI suspect just moments away from an arrest. If it does happen, and you are taken into custody and charged with alcohol or drug-related impaired driving, it does become a serious situation. At that point, calling on an experienced drunken driving defense attorney can often be the next best step to fighting a DWI-DUI summons.
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