NJ DWI Defense Update: Legally Defining the Term “Impaired Driving” for New Jersey Motorists

In Bergen, Monmouth, Ocean, Union and all counties throughout the Garden State, understanding what is or is not impaired driving is key to a good drunken driving defense. As a New Jersey DWI lawyer, my firm works to assist motorists who have been accused of driving under the influence of alcohol, prescription medication (drug DUI), controlled dangerous substances (CDS) or illicit drugs.

Making a determination of whether or not a New Jersey driver is operating his or her vehicle while impaired — at least as the term applies to alcohol consumption, typically requires taking a measurement of the suspect’s blood. What is measured is something called Blood-alcohol content or BAC for short. As a New Jersey drunken driving defense attorneys, I and my colleagues represent a wide variety of individuals charged with DWI and drug DUI. Establishing a driver’s BAC is an important part of the state’s evidence against that person when and if the case goes to trial.

Specifically, New Jersey law stipulates that if the operator of a motor vehicle, such as a passenger car, light truck, minivan or commercial delivery vehicle, is determined to have a BAC level of 0.08 percent or more, then that individual is guilty of driving while intoxicated (DWI), which is also known variously as drunken driving, driving under the influence (DUI), or impaired driving.

The abbreviation “BAC” refers to the level of alcohol is a person’s blood. It’s important to keep in mind that while the law uses the 0.08 percent BAC as the threshold of being legally drunk, a driver can still be convicted of drunken driving even if their BAC is under that 0.08 percent limit.

Outside of alcohol, it is also a violation of New Jersey state law if an individual operates a motor vehicle while under the influence (DUI) of a narcotic substance, a hallucinogenic drug or a habit-producing medication. Also important to remember is that drivers can also be convicted for allowing another individual to operate a car or truck when that person does so in violation of New Jersey’s DWI laws.

While most New Jersey law enforcement departments and agencies rely on breathalyzers (such as the Alcotest device) to generate the appropriate evidence to help convict a defendant in a drunken driving case, there are occasions when police will use an actual blood sample to get their critical evidence. This is accomplished by drawing a small amount of the suspect’s blood.

Instances in which the police will typically resort to an actual blood sample include the following:

  • When the suspect has been injured (blood samples drawn by the police or a local hospital)
  • If the suspect refuses to provide a breath sample via the Alcotest machine
  • If a driver’s BAC is dangerously high
  • When a driver’s BAC is unexpectedly low (especially in cases where narcotics or other drug-related impairment is suspected)
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