Every day of every week, all across New Jersey, state police and local law enforcement officers make multiple arrests of drivers whom they suspect of being intoxicated by alcohol, doctor-prescribed medication (drug DUI), and sometimes even illegal drugs like cocaine, marijuana and meth. While many of these individuals may have had a drink prior to getting behind the wheel, not all of them were necessarily legally drunk at the time of the traffic stop.
As Garden State DWI defense lawyers, I and my staff of legal professionals have decades of collective experience representing people charged with drunken driving in counties such as Ocean, Sussex, Union and Passaic. A percentage of these individuals who have been charged with DWI, drug DUI, refusal to take a breathalyzer test, and other traffic-related infractions, may actually be found guilty. Others may not.
One thing is certain: Here in New Jersey, fines and penalties for drunken driving can be harsh and highly punitive. Some of the most costly aspects of a drunken driving conviction is the potential increase of a driver’s auto insurance premium; this can equal thousands of dollars a year on top of an individuals “normal” insurance costs.
Whatever the reason for a DWI charge or drug DUI summons, a conviction can cost a person monetarily, as well as in terms of broken relationships, truncated careers and loss of standing in one’s community. Avoiding an arrest is primary, but minimizing the damage of a conviction is the next best thing.
For most people charged with DWI, the initial police stop is the first part of a long process that ends in a local courtroom. Since being pulled over for drunk driving is actually not allowed, first a driver must be stopped for a traffic infraction. The following Bergen County blotter entries illustrate the typical circumstances that shape a DWI arrest, although the individual facts will be unique to each driver.
Late on a Friday evening, a Wyckoff police officer observed the driver of a vehicle traveling along a stretch of Franklin Ave., who appeared to be in violation of the state cellphone law. After pulling the vehicle over, officers reportedly saw an open bottle of alcohol in the car. The patrolmen searched the vehicle and found a small quantity of marijuana, plus more alcohol, as well as a soft drink bottle altered so as to be used to smoke marijuana. An 18-year-old man was arrested and charged with underage possession of alcohol, marijuana possession, having narcotics paraphernalia, as well as the original cellphone violation. He was processed and then released pending a court appearance.
In the early evening hours on a Saturday, a policeman on routine patrol reportedly saw a vehicle parked in a fire zone, just in front of a liquor store. The patrolman then watching two persons, apparently holding a case of beer, walk from the retail location to the car, placing the beer inside the vehicle. As the car was evidently parked in violation, and the occupants were believed to be under legal drinking age, the officer approached the vehicle. It was reportedly determined through police investigation that one of the occupants, a 19-year-old local man, had bought the beer moment before. The man was charged with underage alcohol possession. An ongoing investigation of the store was begun to determine if there was a pattern of alcohol sales to underage individuals.
Glen Rock, NJ
During a Saturday evening, police pulled a vehicle over apparently for a routine traffic infraction. During the police stop, officers reportedly discovered an alcoholic beverage, plus a small amount of marijuana, as well as drug paraphernalia on the person of the 18-year-old driver from Midland Park, NJ. Police charged the driver with underage possession of underage alcohol; possession of marijuana (less than 50 grams) and drug paraphernalia. Three other teenagers also in the vehicle were arrested and charged with a variety of offenses including underage alcohol possession; marijuana possession in a motor vehicle; misrepresenting age to induce sale or delivery of alcohol to a minor. They were all processed and then released pending a court appearance.
The next day, during the early morning hours, police answered a 911 call regarding a fight between two individuals in the intersection of Elmwood Ave. and Cornwall Rd. Although the suspects fled on foot, Glen Rock officers — with the assistance of the Bergen Co., Fair Lawn and Ridgewood police departments — where able to locate one of the now injured teenage suspects. An 18-year-old Glen Rock man was eventually found, arrested and charged with a number of violations, including possession of a controlled dangerous substance (CDS), marijuana possession, having drug paraphernalia, possession of a fake government ID, and others. He was subsequently released pending an appearance at Glen Rock’s municipal court.