New Jersey Court Discusses Evidentiary Determinations in DWI Cases

Under New Jersey law, DWI defendants are not required to offer any evidence in their defense. Instead, the burden is on the State to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that a defendant committed each element of the charged offense. In some cases, however, it may be beneficial for a defendant to introduce evidence in his or her defense, such as expert testimony regarding the cause of an accident. In a recent case, a New Jersey appellate court discussed the weight that each party’s evidence should be accorded in assessing a DWI defendant’s guilt. If you live in New Jersey and are charged with a DWI crime, it is wise to speak with a proficient New Jersey DWI attorney to assess what you can do to attempt to avoid a conviction.

Procedural Background of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was charged with DWI and was convicted following a trial. The defendant appealed, arguing that the observation evidence introduced by the State was insufficient to sustain a conviction and that the trial judge failed to grant proper weight to the defendant’s expert.

Evidence Introduced at Trial

At trial, the State introduced evidence that the defendant drove off the road and through a fence, after which he struck a tree. The impact caused the defendant’s vehicle’s airbags to deploy and caused a fire in the engine. A police officer investigating the accident noted an odor of alcohol on the defendant’s breath, and he observed that the defendant had bloodshot eyes and had urinated on himself. The defendant admitted to drinking two martinis as well. The officer administered a field sobriety test, which the defendant failed.

Reportedly, the defendant called his physician and an expert in field sobriety testing as witnesses. The expert conceded that he did not see the defendant’s field sobriety test because it was not conducted on camera, however. Additionally, the defendant’s physician did not allege that the defendant’s behavior was due to anything but intoxication. The defendant also produced a report from BMW regarding work performed on his vehicle prior to the accident.

Evidentiary Determinations in DWI Cases

In New Jersey, a judge assessing a defendant’s guilt in a DWI case is tasked with assessing the credibility of witnesses. Thus, a judge’s findings will not be overturned if they could have reasonably been reached based upon the evidence of record. In the subject case, the court was not persuaded by the defendant’s argument that the trial judge did not grant appropriate weight to the defendant’s experts or report. The court stated that a trial court’s evidentiary determinations are reviewed for an abuse of discretion, which only occurs when a judge’s decision lacked a rational explanation, relied on an impermissible basis, or deviated from established policies. Here the court found that the State produced sufficient evidence that the defendant was intoxicated at the time of the arrest. Conversely, the defendant’s experts failed to establish that the defendant’s accident was caused by anything other than the defendant’s intoxication. Thus, the court affirmed the trial court’s ruling.

Meet with an Experienced New Jersey Attorney

If you are charged with a DWI offense, it is in your best interest to meet with an experienced New Jersey DWI defense attorney to discuss which defenses you may be able to assert. The zealous attorneys at the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall are adept at defending people charged with DWI and will work tirelessly to help you protect your rights. You can reach us at 877-450-8301 or through the form online to schedule a meeting.