New Jersey Court Discusses Operation of a Vehicle in DWI Cases

Under New Jersey law, people can be charged with DWI offenses, even if they were not actually driving at the time of their arrest. Rather, under the DWI law, a person merely has to “operate” a vehicle while intoxicated to be found guilty of DWI. What constitutes operation is a question frequently brought before the New Jersey courts. In a recent ruling in which a DWI conviction was confirmed, a New Jersey court explained what is considered sufficient evidence of operation for purposes of DWI. If you are accused of a DWI crime, it is in your best interest to meet with a New Jersey DWI defense lawyer to evaluate what defenses you may be able to assert.

The Defendant’s Arrest

It is reported that police officers observed the defendant standing on the side of a highway next to his vehicle at approximately 2 am. The vehicle’s lights were flashing, and the defendant was adjusting his pants. The officers spoke with the defendant, who advised that he was on the way home from the casino and stopped to urinate. He admitted he had a drink earlier in the day and agreed to submit to a field sobriety test. He failed the test and refused to provide a breath sample and was subsequently arrested and charged with refusal to submit to a chemical breath test and DWI. He was convicted as charged, after which he appealed. On appeal, he argued, among other things, that the State failed to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that he had the intent to operate his vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. The appellate court rejected the defendant’s argument and affirmed his conviction.

Operation of a Vehicle

Under New Jersey law, a person that operates a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or more, or while under the influence of alcohol, is guilty of DWI. The court explained that operates is broadly construed to include more than just driving. The operation, then, can be established by numerous circumstances, including an observation of the defendant in or out of the vehicle under circumstances that would indicate the defendant had been driving while intoxicated, actual observation of the defendant driving while intoxicated, or the defendant’s admission.

Further, the court explained, the operation can be proven by circumstantial or direct evidence, as long it is competent and meets the required standard of proof. In the subject case, the defendant argued that the trial court erred in ruling he operated, intended to operate, or was in physical control of the vehicle. The court disagreed, finding that the evidence supporting the ruling was credible, sufficient, and established beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant operated his vehicle while intoxicated. Thus, his conviction was affirmed.

Meet with an Experienced New Jersey DWI Defense Attorney

People can be convicted of 1st offense DWI in NJ even if they were not stopped while driving a vehicle. If you are accused of a DUI offense, the experienced New Jersey DWI defense attorneys of The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall can advise you of your rights and help you to seek the best outcome possible in your case. You can contact us through our online form or at 877-450-8301 to set up a conference.

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