Court Explains Operation of a Vehicle in the Context of New Jersey DWI Charges

It is not uncommon for people to spend time in their cars for purposes other than driving. While generally, sitting in a parked vehicle is not notable, a person sitting in the driver’s seat of a car while intoxicated is deemed to be in operation of the vehicle and it can lead to DWI charges. What constitutes operation of a vehicle was the topic of a recent New Jersey ruling in a case in which the defendant appealed his conviction for a first time DWI offense. If you are charged with a DUI offense, it is prudent to meet with a capable New Jersey DWI defense attorney.

The Alleged Crime

It is reported that a woman noticed the defendant’s car parked by the entrance to the parking lot for her complex. The defendant was sitting in the driver’s seat and was slumped over. The woman observed that the car was still there approximately twenty minutes later and called the police. She then saw the defendant get out of the car and urinate in the bushes, and then notice the car moved.

Allegedly, police dispatched to the scene conducted field sobriety tests, which the defendant failed. He was transported to the police station and charged with DWI. He was convicted following a trial. He appealed, arguing the state failed to show that he was in operation of his car at the time of the alleged crime. On appeal, the appellate court affirmed his conviction.

Operation of a Vehicle in the Context of DWI Charges

The primary issue on appeal was whether the record supported the lower court’s determination that the defendant was in operation of the vehicle as defined by the New Jersey DWI statute, which states that it is unlawful for a person to operate a vehicle with a blood alcohol content of 0.08% or higher. The court noted that operation in the DWI context has a broad interpretation that includes more than just driving.

Instead, the operation can be demonstrated by numerous circumstances, including an observation of the defendant driving while intoxicated or entering and exiting a car in a manner that indicates he or she had been driving while intoxicated. A defendant may also admit to operating a vehicle under the influence. Additionally, the operation can be established by any circumstantial or direct evidence, as long as it meets the established standard of proof and represents competent evidence. Based on the foregoing and the review of the evidence of record, the court found that the lower court’s finding that the defendant was guilty was reasonable. Thus, it affirmed his conviction.

Speak with an Experienced New Jersey DWI Defense Attorney

The term DWI is misleading, as a person does not actually have to be driving a vehicle to be charged with a DWI. If you are faced with charges of a first offense DWI, you should speak to an attorney promptly. The dedicated New Jersey DWI defense attorneys of The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall can inform you of your rights and help you to seek a favorable result. You can contact us via our form online or at  877-450-8301 to set up a conference.

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