Court Discusses the State’s Burden of Proof in New Jersey School Zone DWI Cases

While it is unlawful for a person to operate a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol in New Jersey, not all DWI offenses are treated equally, as some carry enhanced penalties. For example,  a conviction for a DWI in a school zone carries greater penalties than if the offense occurred in other areas. Recently, a New Jersey court discussed the evidence needed to prove a person is guilty of driving while intoxicated in a school zone, in a recent opinion in which the defendant appealed his conviction. If you are a resident of New Jersey charged with driving under the influence near a school, it is prudent to speak to a dedicated New Jersey school zone DWI defense attorney to evaluate your possible defenses.

Facts of the Case

Reportedly, the police responded to the scene of a one-car accident in Warren, New Jersey. When they arrived at the scene, they observed tire marks on the road and in the grass and a disabled vehicle in the middle of the road. When they approached the vehicle, they observed the defendant sitting in the driver’s seat with the car running and the headlights on. When the police spoke with the defendant, they smelled alcohol and noted his speech was slurred and difficult to understand.

Allegedly, the defendant was unaware that he was involved in the accident. He submitted to field sobriety tests, which he failed. He was arrested and transported to the police station, where his BAC was determined to be 0.28. He was charged with DWI and DWI within 1000 feet of a school. Following a bench trial, the defendant was found guilty. He appealed, arguing in part that the State failed to produce evidence sufficient to show he was guilty of DWI in a school zone.

The State’s Burden of Proof in School Zone DWI Cases

On appeal, the court rejected the defendant’s arguments. The court noted that the statute defining DWI in school zone violations permitted, but did not require, the State to introduce a certified map to demonstrate that a DWI violation occurred within the required proximity of a school zone. The court explained that the relevant statute provided that a map or copy of a map showing the boundaries and location of the area within 1000 feet of a property used for school purposes may be used in the prosecution of a DWI within a school zone crime.

Accordingly, the court found that the State did not need to introduce a map of the area into evidence to prove the defendant committed the charged offense but was able to rely on the testimony of the arresting officer that the incident happened well within 1000 feet of a school. Thus, the defendant’s conviction was affirmed.

Speak with an Experienced New Jersey DWI Defense Attorney

If you are charged with driving in a school zone while intoxicated you may face serious penalties and should speak to an attorney. The experienced New Jersey DWI defense attorneys of The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall can advise you of your rights and assist you in gathering the facts and evidence needed to set forth compelling arguments in your favor. You can contact us via our online form or by calling 877-450-8301 to schedule a meeting.

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