We recently started addressing some of the more commonly asked questions regarding drunk driving arrests, DWI charges and DUI-DWI convictions here in New Jersey. For those individuals who have already experienced a drunken driving arrest first hand, some of the issues we have and will discuss may seem quite familiar. However, the best time to learn about the ins and outs of DWI and drug DUI defense is usually before one is arrested and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Right off the bat, we will say that if you or someone you know has been issued a summons or otherwise charged with intoxicated driving or breath test refusal, it is usually in your best interest to seek out the help of a skilled trial attorney with years of experience in handling drunk driving cases for drivers accused of DWI or DUI here in the Garden State.
Over the years, as New Jersey DUI-DWI attorneys, my legal team has helped hundreds of people fight charges levied against them by local and state police in counties such as Bergen, Atlantic, Ocean and Monmouth. Whether a motorist has been accused of drinking and driving, operating a motor vehicle while impaired due to legal use of a prescription medication, or the taking of illicit drugs (maybe even a marijuana possession charge in a motor vehicle), our attorneys and professional legal staff are ready to lend their expertise to a client’s defense.
Before getting to some additional FAQs, we will remind our readers that although our law firm provides legal defense for drivers facing DWI or drug DUI charges, we in no way condone any kind of impaired vehicle operation. We know from professional experience that few motorists here in the Garden State have anything pleasant to look forward to when a DWI-DUI conviction is looming large in the rearview mirror. When facing thousands of dollars in court fees, punitive fines, and jacked-up insurance premiums, the help from a qualified attorney often looks like a good choice.
As with many of our prospective clients, most people have a range of questions pertaining to the process of fighting a charge of drunken or drug-impaired driving. In the interests of answering some of the more common questions, here is the second of a multi-part FAQ regarding the potential consequences of a DWI-DUI arrest and conviction here in New Jersey:
Q: Are there any special “cues” that a municipal patrolman or state trooper looks for when on the prowl for drunk drivers?
A: First off, we will remind everyone that while police may not legally stop a motor vehicle simply on a “hunch” or suspicion that a motorist is impaired by alcohol or drugs, there are many legitimate reasons why a law enforcement official can pull a car or truck over, which may then lead to a drunk driving, drug DUI, or CDS possession arrest. Now, based on the above question, we can say with a fair amount of certainty that many police officers look for certain driving behaviors that may indicate a motorist is intoxicated by alcohol or impaired by drugs.
The list can be rather long, but here are a few of the more frequent “tells” (as published by the National Highway Traffic Administration or NHTSA) that can certainly open a motorist up to a possible DWI arrest:
— Rounding a corner or turning one’s vehicle in an excessively wide radius — Straddling the center line or repeated drifting over a lane divider — Nearly missing another vehicle in the street or an object on the roadside — Weaving within or outside of one’s own lane — Swerving for no reason — Driving at speeds well below (10mph or more) the posted limit — Coming to a stop in an active traffic lane without due cause — Following other vehicles much too close — Erratic braking — Inconsistent signaling versus driving actions — Driving after dusk with one’s headlamps off — Unusually slow response to traffic control signals
Contrary to popular belief, speeding is not considered a symptom of drunken driving. When it comes to excessive speed, many traffic safety experts agree that speeding requires more skill and quick reflexes, and can sometimes be used to illustrate that the driver was not intoxicated.
Q: How should I answer a police officer if he asks me whether or not I have been drinking?
A: It is your constitutional right not to answer potentially incriminating questions from a law enforcement officer. However, this does not mean that a driver should be belligerent or combative when questioned by a police officer. If you feel that your answer could hurt you later in court, it is best to respond politely that you would like to speak with an attorney before answering any questions to the police.
Q: Can I have my attorney present if asked to take a field sobriety test after a police stop?
A: Here in the Garden State, motorists have no right to speak to an attorney prior to submitting (or refusing) to a blood or breath test at police headquarters.
Q: After being taken into custody on suspicion of DWI, what kinds of behaviors or mannerisms would the arresting officer be looking for in the accused?
A: Most police officers are taught to look for the traditional signs and symptoms of alcohol intoxication, which can include the following:
— Speech that is slurred — Fumbling for one’s driver’s license/insurance information — Reduced ability to understand the officer’s directions and questions — Flushed face — Glassy stare; watery and/or bloodshot eyes — Smell of alcohol on the motorist’s breath — Inability to get out of the vehicle easily without staggering or seeming “tipsy”
— Swaying while standing or otherwise being unstable on one’s feet — Leaning against one’s vehicle or another stationary object for support — Combative or argumentative behavior; unusually cheerful attitude or “inappropriate” mannerisms — Soiled, rumpled, disorderly clothing — Inability to walk well — Confusion as to the current time and/or place; general disorientation
It goes without saying that once and arrest has been made and a court date set, the next step for the accused motorist is to contact a qualified DWI lawyer to discuss one’s case. A skilled lawyer can help explore possible defenses strategies by examining the facts of your case and then deciding what approach(s) to take for your defense. If the prosecution’s evidence is weak or lacking, a good lawyer may be able to have charges downgraded or dismissed altogether. Few people could walk into a courtroom on their own and come away with such potentially favorable outcomes.