Court Analyzes Sufficiency of Observational Evidence in New Jersey DWI Cases

Many New Jersey DWI convictions were supported, in part, by the results of chemical testing. In 2018, however, the New Jersey Supreme Court invalidated the results of breath tests in many cases. Thus, in cases where a defendant’s conviction is based on a breath test, the conviction may be void. Recently, the Superior Court of New Jersey analyzed whether observational evidence alone was sufficient to sustain a defendant’s conviction following the invalidation of the results of his breath test. If you are charged with a DWI offense in New Jersey, it is wise to consult a skillful New Jersey DWI defense attorney regarding what the State must prove to obtain a conviction.

Facts Surrounding the Defendant’s Arrest

Reportedly, the defendant was stopped in December 2011 for traveling 19 miles over the speed limit. When the police officer approached the defendant’s vehicle, he noticed the defendant smelled of alcohol and had difficulty producing his license and registration. The officer then asked the defendant to submit to field sobriety testing. During the tests, the defendant raised one arm for balance, failed the walk and turn test, and was swaying while standing in place. He then admitted to consuming one shot and two beers.

It is reported that the defendant was charged with DWI. He was convicted based on both the officer’s observation of his behavior and the results of a breath test. The defendant appealed. Following his conviction, the New Jersey Supreme Court rendered breath tests invalid in many cases, including the defendant’s case. Thus, the sole issue on appeal was whether there was sufficient proof to support a conviction based on observational evidence.

DWI Convictions Based on Observational Evidence

On appeal, the court declined to exercise original jurisdiction over the evidence to determine if it was sufficient to support the defendant’s conviction and remanded that issue to the lower court. The court then considered the issue of whether the lower court should draw adverse inferences against the State due to discovery violations when considering whether the evidence was adequate to support the defendant’s conviction.

Specifically, the police officer failed to maintain a surveillance video taken of the defendant prior to the administration of the breath test. The defendant argued that the video was relevant because it would have shown his behavior and appearance. The court agreed, finding that the video would go to the core issue of whether the observational evidence was sufficient to support the defendant’s conviction. The court then found that allowing the lower court to draw an adverse inference against the State was an adequate remedy for the discovery violation.

Speak with a Trusted New Jersey DWI Defense Attorney

It is important for people charged with DWI offenses to understand how recent changes in the law may impact their case. If you are a resident of New Jersey charged with a DWI offense, you should speak with a trusted New Jersey DWI defense attorney. The skillful attorneys of The Law Offices of Johnathan F. Marshall will work tirelessly to help you seek the best results possible under the facts of your case. We can be contacted via our online form or at  877-450-8301 to set up a consultation.