New Jersey Court Upholds DWI Conviction Arising Out of an Anonymous 911 Call

Under New Jersey law, a police officer can effectuate a traffic stop if he or she has a reasonable suspicion that the driver committed a traffic violation. While generally, a police officer’s suspicion that a violation has occurred arises out of personal observation, officers may also be dispatched to investigate erratic driving reported to 911 operators. Recently, a New Jersey court assessed whether an anonymous 911 call provides sufficient grounds to conduct a traffic stop in a case in which the defendant was convicted of DWI following a stop made pursuant to an anonymous tip. If you were charged with DWI following an anonymous call, it is in your best interest to consult a capable New Jersey DWI defense attorney regarding what evidence the State may be permitted to use against you and your potential defenses.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that, in response to a 911 dispatch, a police officer stopped the defendant. The defendant was subsequently arrested for DWI. Three days after his arrest, the defendant retained an attorney who demanded discovery from the State, including the 911 dispatch recording and also requested that the State preserve all recordings. Three months later, however, following a subsequent request for the recordings, the defendant’s attorney was advised that 911 recordings were only retained for 90 days and the subject recordings had since been destroyed. The defendant filed a motion to dismiss the charges against him and a motion to suppress information regarding the 911 call. The court denied both motions, and the defendant entered a conditional guilty plea. Following sentencing, the defendant appealed.

What Constitutes Reasonable Suspicion Under New Jersey Law

On appeal, the defendant argued that the traffic stop from which his charges arose was unlawful because the officer did not have a reasonable suspicion that the defendant committed a traffic violation. On review, the court explained that it is well established under New Jersey law that a traffic stop is justifiable when the officer conducting the stop has a reasonable and articulable suspicion that the driver committed a traffic violation. Whether sufficient grounds exist to conduct a stop is fact sensitive and must be analyzed on a case by case basis.

The courts have held, however, that an anonymous tip is a factor the courts should consider when assessing whether a traffic stop is justified. Further, the courts have held that the degree of corroborating evidence needed to uphold a stop based on erratic driving is reduced when the initial tip is based on a 911 call that provides the location of the vehicle, a description of the vehicle, and the manner in which the driving was erratic. In the subject case, the court noted that the 911 caller provided information regarding the make, model, and color of the defendant’s vehicle, where the vehicle was located and details regarding the manner in which the defendant was driving. Thus, the court found there was a sufficient basis for the officer to stop the defendant and affirmed the defendant’s conviction.

Speak to an Experienced New Jersey DWI Defense Attorney

If you are charged with a DWI crime, it is wise to speak to an experienced New Jersey DWI defense attorney to discuss your rights. The dedicated attorneys of the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall are skilled at defending people charged with DWI in New Jersey, and we will work tirelessly to help you seek a just outcome. You can contact us at  877-450-8301 or via the form online to set up a meeting.

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