New Jersey Court Rules Tractors Are Motor Vehicles Under the DWI Statute

People often refer to New Jersey as the Garden State, in part due to the high number of farms throughout the state. As such, it should come as no surprise that many people who live in New Jersey own tractors.  Although people typically do not use tractors as a primary means of transportation, the New Jersey police can nonetheless charge a person with a DWI for operating a tractor while intoxicated as demonstrated in a recent New Jersey appellate court ruling. If you are faced with DWI charges in New Jersey arising out of your operation of a non-traditional vehicle, it is prudent to speak with a capable New Jersey DWI defense attorney regarding your rights.

Factual Background

It is alleged that a police officer stopped the defendant while he was operating a tractor on the shoulder of a highway. The tractor was not insured or registered with the Department of Motor Vehicles. The defendant agreed to submit to a breath test, which revealed his blood alcohol content to be 0.32%. Additionally, he admitted that he was traveling from a bar where he consumed five to six beers back to his home. The defendant was charged with DWI but argued that he was not guilty, on the basis that tractors do not fall under the definition of motor vehicles as defined by New Jersey law. The defendant was found guilty, after which he appealed.

Definition of a Motor Vehicle for New Jersey DWI Purposes

The sole issue on appeal was whether a farm tractor qualifies as a motor vehicle for purposes of the New Jersey DWI statute. Under New Jersey law, a person can be convicted of driving while intoxicated if he or she operates a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content of 0.08% or higher or while under the influence of alcohol. The court noted that broad readings are afforded to the terms of the DWI statute, to effectuate the intent of the legislature to thwart harm caused by drunk driving accidents.

The court further stated that New Jersey law defines motor vehicles as all vehicles that are propelled by forces other than muscle power, except for motorized bicycles or low-speed electric scooters or bicycles, and vehicles that only run on tracks or rails. The court noted, however, that tractors were not among the enumerated exceptions to the definition of a motor vehicle. Additionally, the court explained that the definition of a motor vehicle stated that motor vehicles were devices used to transport property or people on highways, like the defendant’s tractor. Based on the foregoing, the court rejected the defendant’s argument that he could not be found guilty of DWI because he was not operating a motor vehicle at the time of his arrest. As such, the court affirmed his conviction.

Consult a Skilled New Jersey DWI Defense Attorney

If you are charged with a New Jersey DWI offense, it is in your best interest to consult a skillful New Jersey DWI defense attorney to discuss what defenses you may be able to set forth to protect your liberties. The experienced New Jersey DWI defense attorneys of the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall have the knowledge and resources needed to help you strive for a successful outcome, and we will advocate vigorously on your behalf. You can reach us at 877-450-8301 or through the form online to set up a meeting.

Contact Information