In some instances in which a DWI accident is especially catastrophic and there was more than one person in the car at the time of the incident, it may not be clear who was driving. Thus, the State will likely have to determine who was driving and then who should be charged criminally based on circumstantial evidence such as statements from the parties involved. Recently, a New Jersey court assessed whether statements made by a defendant charged with DWI shortly after an accident were admissible in a case in which the defendant alleged he lacked the capacity to knowingly waive his right against self-incrimination. If you live in New Jersey and are charged with DWI based on statements you made during a police investigation, you should consult a trusted New Jersey DWI defense attorney to assess whether you may be able to have evidence of your statements precluded.
Facts Surrounding the Accident and Subsequent Statements
It is reported that the police were called to the scene of a devastating car accident in which it appeared the car had left the roadway and struck a tree. When the police arrived, the defendant was on the ground by the passenger side of the vehicle and was being tended to by EMS workers. The defendant’s nephew was hanging out of the passenger side window and was deceased when the police arrived at the scene.
Allegedly, when the police were investigating the accident they visited the defendant in the hospital, read him Miranda warnings, and then began questioning him. Through the course of the questioning, the defendant stated he and his nephew had been drinking prior to the accident, and that he could not recall the accident but knew that he was not ejected from the vehicle. He also stated he crawled to the passenger side to help his nephew. A blood test revealed that the defendant’s blood alcohol content at the time of the accident was between 0.17 and 0.23. He was charged with DWI and second-degree vehicular homicide. He filed a motion to suppress the statements he made in the hospital, which the court denied. After his conviction, the defendant appealed, arguing he did not have the capacity to knowingly waive his Miranda rights.
Admissibility of Incriminating Statements
Under New Jersey law, for a waiver of Miranda rights to be valid, the defendant need not be informed of all the information that might be useful in making his or her decision. Rather, whether a defendant’s waiver of Miranda rights was intelligent, knowing, and a voluntary waiver is assessed on a totality of the circumstances surrounding the interrogation of the defendant, including how long he or she was detained, his or her age and intelligence, whether the defendant was advised of his or her constitutional rights, and whether the interrogation was prolonged.
In the subject case, the appellate court found that the evidence of record, which included an audiotape of the interrogation, demonstrated that the defendant was sober and alert at the time of the interrogation. Thus, the appellate court found that the trial court ruled correctly and affirmed the defendant’s conviction.
Speak to a Knowledgeable New Jersey DWI Defense Attorney
If you are charged with a DWI crime in New Jersey, it is critical to retain an attorney that will fight zealously on your behalf. The New Jersey DWI defense attorneys of The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall are well-versed in what it takes to obtain a successful result in DWI cases. If you engage our services, we will tirelessly pursue the best outcome available under the facts of your case. You can contact us at 877-450-8301 or through our online form to set up a meeting.