It’s safe to say that the majority of drivers in the Garden State have never been arrested for drunken driving; that said, it’s also a fair bet that many of these individuals do take a drink from time to time. What may come as some surprise to a lot of people is that one needn’t be a heavy drinker to be charged with drinking and driving. What only needs to happen is for that motorist who just left a party, maybe with a beers or two under his belt to be unlucky enough to catch the interest of a local patrolman after forgetting to signal a lane change, or other minor traffic law.
Here in Bergen County, one can also run afoul of the law by having a drink or two at a local pub and then happen upon a random DWI roadblock (also referred to as a sobriety checkpoint). In such cases, depending on the driver’s level of inebriation a police officer may ask that the suspect step out of the vehicle and perform a few relatively simple field sobriety tests. If circumstances are right, it’s possible that the motorist might end up being arrested and charged with DWI.
A breath test, using a breathalyzer machine or Alcotest device, may return a blood-alcohol content (BAC) level that meets or exceeds the legal limit for drunken driving, namely 0.08 percent. As New Jersey DWI defense lawyers, I and my staff meet dozens of people every month who have been charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or prescription medication (otherwise known as drug DUI). Some of these people likely believe that they were not impaired at the time of their arrest.
For first-time drunk driving offenders, or should we say, first-timers accused of driving while intoxicated, we understand how shocking, unnerving and embarrassing such an arrest can be. To put it mildly, it can be a rude wakeup call for many people.
For many, a DWI is particularly intimidating experience, if only because this area of the law affects regular citizens who can find themselves thrust into situations where they may be placed into a municipal or county jail. The entire experience, whether in Monmouth, Ocean or Passaic County, can be unsettling and a shock to the accused and his family.
Before something like this happens, it’s important to remember that a driver cannot be stopped simply on the officer’s hunch that the suspect is drunk or has been drinking. For a DWI or drug DUI stop to be legal, the officer must first observe a violation of a traffic law. However, this can be a simple as observing an illegal turn or noticing a burned out taillamp. Furthermore, weaving within one’s traffic lane is not against the law, per se, however crossing either lane dividing line can give an officer sufficient grounds to pull a driver over.
In any case, once a traffic stop has been made and the officer or patrolman begins the process of interviewing the suspect, any telltale hints of drunken behavior or physical evidence — such as an open container of beer or wine — can be enough for the police to arrest a person on suspicion of drunken driving.