As professional trial attorneys representing individuals accused of both civil and criminal offenses, we are well aware of situation in which defendants are concerned that the evidence against them is either unsupported or lacking invalid from a legal standpoint. In particular, there are numerous potential pieces of evidence that the state can use in an effort to convict a motorist on a charge of drunken driving.
What happens before an arrest, though, can also mean the difference between being charged with a DWI or drug DUI and avoiding a court hearing altogether. Of course, there are any number of triggers that can cause a police officer to stop a driver for what may seem to be a routine traffic offense. These include exceeding the posted speed limit, improper lane change, malfunctioning head or tail lights, or almost any minor infraction.
Having litigated countless DWI-DUI cases for our clients over the years, my colleagues and I know that of the many different scenarios that can eventually lead to DWI or drug DUI charges, one situation that comes up more and more is the call from a concerned citizen complaining of a possibly intoxicated driver on the roadway. More and more, it appears, the phoning in to police of information pertaining to a “bad driver” is getting some drivers into hot water.
Over the past ten years or so, state and local police departments have been getting 9-1-1 phone tips on potentially — or more aptly, allegedly — drunk drivers. When a patrolman follows up on such tips it can come as a surprise to the suspected intoxicated motorist. Despite concerns that tipsters seem to be calling the shots when it comes to some drunk driving arrests, the question in the minds of those accused of DWI or DUI is whether or not the initial tip is a valid reason for an officer to effect a traffic stop.
From our standpoint as New Jersey DWI defense lawyers, it is quite reasonable for any defendant in a drunk driving case to question whether the initial police stop leading to his or her arrest can be legally justified in a court of law. In general, we would say that it is best to share the specific details of your DWI or drug DUI case with a qualified DWI-DUI defense attorney in order to understand your rights under New Jersey law.
While there are usually a wide range of possible factors involved with a Garden State drunk driving arrest, from a legal standpoint police officers are allowed to stop a car, truck or motorcycle that matches the description given by a cellphone tipster regarding a potentially drunken motorist. This may not buoy the spirits of accused drunken drivers, however it also must be kept in mind that New Jersey law requires police to have some other information that justifies a traffic stop leading up to a DWI arrest police stop.
My legal team is cognizant that there have been instances where a local cop or highway patrol officer has acted on an anonymous tip and pulled a vehicle over without observing any specific traffic violation or obvious physical signs on the part of the suspect to indicate that he or she was driving while under the influence. To this end, it is also important to remind readers that our judicial system has identified a number of factors that show a DWI arrest can be justified following a 9-1-1 tip, they are:
— The alleged drunken motorist posed a great risk to public safety — That falsified reports of drunken driving are still rare occurrences — Being stopped by a patrolman is not considered an especially great imposition — The police officer must have confidence in the veracity of the tip
In closing, we will add that an experienced drunken driving defense lawyer should be able to assist an accused individual with his defense, including whether or not there is validity in the initial tip that set events into motion leading to a DWI-DUI arrest. By making an in-depth evaluation of a client’s drunk driving case, most skilled DWI lawyers should be able to decide if there is any reason to mount a challenge to the prosecution’s evidence, as well as whether the procedures used by the police to effect the arrest were legal under the law.