While drinking and driving is a serious offense with stiff and long-lasting penalties, there are several steps between being charged with DWI and being convicted of drunken driving. The fact of the matter, assuming that a police officer stopped the defendant on legitimate grounds, is that the state must prove to the court that the driver was intoxicated at the time of the arrest. Although this might seem like a slam-dunk to most people, as New Jersey DWI defense attorneys, my colleagues and I know that a great deal can change between the time of the arrest and that of the court’s verdict.
Proof of intoxication is no doubt a key piece of evidence in every municipal prosecutor’s case file. If the state cannot prove that a driver was legally impaired at the time of the arrest, the court most likely will have to dismiss the charges against the defendant. We will add that because of the potentially crippling consequences of a DWI-DUI conviction, there is no good reason to eschew the services of a qualified drunken driving lawyer.
Simply because a person is stopped for a traffic violation and subsequently charged with driving under the influence in no way means that nothing that can be done to avoid a guilty verdict. The main thing to remember is that the state must prove that a driver was, in fact, intoxicated at the time of the traffic stop. For the majority of DWI arrests, there are four ways in which the police can obtain this evidence, including a breathalyzer test, blood test, field sobriety test, and direct admission of guilt by the motorist himself.
Breathalyzer testing devices are respected throughout the New Jersey court system as a fairly reliable measurement of blood-alcohol content (or BAC). However, a savvy lawyer will be able to find out if the machine in question was malfunctioning or improper used at the time of the BAC measurement. In addition, our legal team is well versed in the proper operation and maintenance of these devices.
Most commonly, if the defense can prove that the police did not follow prescribed procedures in obtaining the BAC readings, the court may decide that the Breathalyzer evidence is inadmissible as evidence. The same can be said with the administering of field sobriety tests and the observations by the officer in charge. One thing that can be difficult to is if the driver admits guilt on the spot during the traffic stop.
An admission of guilt from a motorist when confronted with a law enforcement officer is surprisingly common. Admitting that one had “a couple drinks” prior to driving can seem very damning after the fact; however, this is not always the case. It is important to remember everything that occurs during a traffic stop, including if the patrolman read the driver his or her Miranda Rights prior to the admission. If a driver is not fully informed of his right to remain silent before admitting that he had a drink or took drugs, there may be legitimate grounds to have that admission stricken from the court record because it was unlawfully obtained.
Sometimes a driver makes things worse for herself beyond the issue of driving while intoxicated. Consider the case of a woman who was taken into custody after police responded to a citizen’s report of a person driving carelessly in an Ocean County retirement community. According to news articles, 31-year-old Kristal Boldman of Toms River was observed by Lacey police officers as acting in an incoherent manner when they came upon her disabled vehicle.
Based on police reports, the vehicle apparently had a punctured front tire at the time of the arrest, which took place a little before 1am on a Friday morning last September. Compounding the motorist’s other problems was the fact that she had outstanding warrants from both the Ocean County Sheriff’s Department as well as the Tinton Falls Police Department. The woman was eventually charged with DWI, plus the outstanding warrants, and spent a period of time in the Ocean County Jail awaiting a hearing.
Traffic Stop Leads to DWI, Warrant Arrest; Patch.com; September 25, 2013