It’s a fair bet that anyone who has received a drunken driving summons following an arrest for impaired driving did not begin that particular day thinking that she would be charged with a DWI offense. But, these kinds of traffic-related offenses occur every day, day and night, all across the Garden State. As New Jersey drunk driving defense lawyers, I and my legal staff see dozens of potential clients every month with similar stories.
Providing a defense for drunken driving charges is what we do. As a former municipal prosecutor, I understand the approach that most prosecuting attorneys use to attain convictions. From the perspective of an outsider — such as a driver accused of driving under the influence of alcohol or impaired motor vehicle operation due to prescription meds — it may seem that defending oneself is monumental task. We can only say that this is not necessarily so.
Of course, the police who arrest a driver and the prosecutors who try the case against a DWI or drug DUI defendant may appear to be monolithic authorities who couldn’t possibly be successfully defeated, but this ignores the strength of the law which gives a defendant the right to challenge her accusers and present evidence in her defense. One thing to remember in the case of a DWI-DUI charge is never to assume that the situation is hopeless.
It is a defeatist attitude to assume that a charge of drunken driving will automatically result in a conviction for DWI. Considering the potential fines and penalties, it is in most everyone’s best interest to fight an accusation of drunk driving by contacting an experienced DWI defense attorney. Time and again we are asked by friends, acquaintances and potential clients how really practical it is to fight against a drunk driving charge in the Garden State. Just remember that pleading guilty to a DWI or drug DUI charge is the easiest way to assure you’ll lose your case.
Making the decision to fight a DWI charge is just the first step toward hopefully good result. As a New Jersey trial attorney who defends those accused of drunken driving and drug-related DUI, I can tell you that many prosecutors handling DWI-DUI cases will point to a number of factors in order to prove their assertion that the defendant was operating his or her vehicle while intoxicated or otherwise impaired by alcohol, prescription medication or illicit drugs.
When it comes to prosecuting an alcohol-related DWI case, the state will use “facts” such as the police officer’s detection of an “odor of alcohol” on the defendant’s breath; or that the suspect was driving erratically or appeared unkempt; even that a driver “acted” as if he or she was intoxicated. What you won’t find a prosecutor telling the court is that many of the facts that the state relies on may actually be rather ambiguous from a legal standpoint as actual pieces of evidence.
For instance, even if a driver performed poorly on any of a number of the standardized field sobriety tests (FSTs), there are potential explanations for failing many of these tests. One potential argument against the results of a “failed” sobriety test can be that the tests were carried out under improper or unfair conditions. Revisiting the site of the roadside sobriety test the defense may be able to point to an uneven or even slippery surface that may have caused the accused drunk driver to falter or otherwise appear to be intoxicated. It is common for many drivers to be distracted by a modern police cruiser’s emergency lights, which can be disorienting to even the most sober individual.
In addition to the distraction of fast moving traffic mere feet from the motorist or even cold ambient temperatures and rain, wind or snow can be used as elements of a defense against a failed field sobriety test(s); never mind the nervousness, anxiety or frustration that the subject may have been experiencing during the event.
If you take anything away from this conversation, understand that most people — even those who have not even taken a drink of beer, wine or hard liquor — would tend to struggle to pass those standardized field sobriety tests. Keep in mind that even if you had a difficult time passing these roadside tests, it could easily be attributable to the setting and circumstances of the traffic stop and less about the level of your intoxication, if any. Attempting to do one or more of the FSTs in the comfort of your own home can easily point out the level of difficulty that is associated with these tests.
Finally, it’s important to understand that even when FSTs are administered perfectly (which in reality can be a rare occurrence), experts agree that these tests provide a rather inaccurate measure of impairment on the drivers part. Based on the Nation Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which developed the standardized FSTs, the single-leg stand test only has a 65-percent accuracy rate; the walk-and-turn test is not much better at 68 percent.
As skilled DWI defense attorneys, I and my legal staff know the law and have the skills and trial experience to help accused drunk drivers fight the charges against them. We always recommend that anyone arrested and charged with driving under the influence seek the services of a qualified drunk driving lawyer. The potential penalties of a guilty verdict make not doing so less attractive for most anyone looking to keep their driving record clear and avoiding harsh DWI-related fines and surcharges.