As Garden State DWI and drug DUI defense lawyers, my colleagues and I often remind potential clients that when a police officer makes a traffic stop the action itself can be construed as a “seizure” within the legal definitions stated in the Fourth and Fourteenth amendments of the United States Constitution. As most every legal professional knows, over the years there has existed some doubt as to what truly constituted a valid traffic stop. But these doubts were essentially wiped away following the landmark Supreme Court decision of Delaware v. Prouse.
One of the more popular reasons, at least among police officers, for stopping many a motorist is the common moving violation known as failure to maintain one’s lane; this justification for making a routine traffic stop is second only to pulling a car or truck over based on one of the more typical vehicle equipment infractions, such as a burned out headlight or taillight (in fact, if you find yourself driving a vehicle with a burned-out or broken lamp anywhere on the car or truck, be prepared to have a state trooper or municipal patrolman stop you on the roadside).
When it comes to common moving violations – mainly, straying from one’s lane — drivers who find themselves having a difficult time staying within the lane markers during the evening hours will more than likely end up having a conversation with a law enforcement officer on the shoulder of the roadway. If it’s simply a matter of fatigue, a motorist may simply get a warning; but if that individual has consumed any alcohol recently, much less admits to the fact, complications will likely arise.
Being detained by the police is not an enjoyable, nor a confidence-inspiring experience. During the traffic stop, the officer in charge may detect other hints of inebriation, which may lead him or her to the conclusion that the driver is impaired by beer, wine or hard liquor. One of the more damning pieces of evidence can be an open container of alcohol or the odor of some alcoholic beverage on the motorist’s breath. In legal terms, these observations come under the heading of the “plain view exception” and the “plain smell doctrine.”
If either of the aforementioned situations crops up during a traffic stop, the odds of being arrested for DWI can rise considerably. It is important to remember that once a roadside police stop has occurred, the patrolman is legally obligated to conduct his business in a “reasonable” amount of time. Often this includes the time it takes to request and examine the motorist’s driving credentials, as well as run the driver’s information through the police data system to search for any prior traffic violations or other violations of the law.
While this process does admittedly take some time, in regard to drunk driving stops the time taken should only be what is would be reasonably considered necessary to effectuate its purpose. Keep in mind that this does not mean that if a patrolman stops a motorist for a traffic infraction, but then finds evidence of a possible DWI, he cannot question the driver regarding any prior alcohol related offenses. It is important to remember, as well, that an officer should not detain a motorist unnecessarily long without probable cause for doing so.
Some of the more common kinds of traffic stops can often lead to a drunk driving arrest. The police blotter sections of the local newspaper or online news source illustrate the variety of DWI and drug DUI police arrests that happen on a weekly basis all around the Garden State. The following are examples of some of these.
Accident on Rte 37 Results in DWI for Toms River Driver
A 20-year-old Toms River resident charged with driving while intoxicated following a single-car traffic accident on an early Sunday morning. According to police reports, the driver of a 2001 Jeep apparently lost control of his vehicle and left the roadway around 1:30 in the morning. The vehicle hit a mailbox and then a couple of trees before coming to rest. The driver was not injured, according to news articles, however the police did arrest the man for DWI. That incident was preceded by another drunk driving arrest by the same officer.
Manchester Twp. Police Detain Three Drivers for DWI
Two Ocean County residents and one from Burlington, NJ, were picked up by Manchester patrolmen for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. The two from Ocean County, residents of Toms River, included a 25-year-old driver and a 60-year-old motorist. The former was stopped along a stretch of 1st Avenue for what was apparently a routine traffic violation and subsequently charged with DWI. The older gentleman was pulled over on a portion of Rte 70 and then arrested for being drunk behind the wheel. A third drunken driving arrest, which came a couple weeks following the first two, involved a 31-year-old man from the Maple Shade, NJ, area.
Sobriety Checkpoint in Brick Twp. Nets Police Four Drunk Drivers
A 28-year-old Point Pleasant driver and three other drivers were detained at a sobriety roadblock overnight and in the early morning hours of a Saturday. The other detainees included a 24-year-old Lakewood man, a 20-year-old Toms River woman, and a 24-year-old male driver, also from the Toms River area. Those three individuals were charged with controlled dangerous substance (CDS) possession, as well as having drug-related paraphernalia.