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Many New Jersey DWI charges arise out of breath tests that indicate a blood alcohol concentration over the legal limit. Thus, if a defendant charged with DWI can prove that a breath test was inaccurate, he or she may be able to obtain a dismissal of his or her DWI charges. A defendant seeking to prove the results of a breath test are not reliable faces a high burden, however, as demonstrated in a recent New Jersey appellate court case. If you are charged with committing a DWI in New Jersey, it is prudent to speak to a knowledgeable New Jersey DWI defense attorney to discuss what defenses you may be able to argue to avoid a conviction.

Factual and Procedural History

Allegedly, police officers observed the defendant outside of his vacation home early in the morning. When they spoke with the defendant, they noticed he smelled of alcohol and had slurred speech and bloodshot eyes. The officers instructed the defendant not to drive but observed him driving with no headlights an hour later. He was arrested for suspicion of DWI and transported to the police station, where he underwent a breath test, which revealed his blood alcohol concentration to be .13%.

It is reported that the defendant was charged with and convicted of DWI. As it was his third DWI offense, the defendant was sentenced to a prison term of 190 days, and his license was revoked for ten years. He then appealed, arguing that the breath test that he was administered was unreliable, and therefore his conviction should be vacated. The court rejected the defendant’s arguments and affirmed his sentence. Continue reading

Under New Jersey law, a person convicted of a second or subsequent DWI may be subject to additional penalties. Further, a defendant may face additional penalties if he or she was previously convicted of a DWI or a similar offense in a state other than New Jersey. Recently, a New Jersey appellate court addressed what constitutes a similar offense for purposes of subsequent convictions in a case in which the defendant argued that a prior conviction for drunk driving in New York should not count towards his penalty assessment. If you are accused of a second or subsequent DWI offense in New Jersey, it is advisable to consult a seasoned New Jersey DWI defense attorney to talk about your potential defenses.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was charged with and convicted of committing a DWI offense. The defendant had a prior New Jersey DWI conviction as well as a conviction for driving while his ability was impaired in New York. Thus, the court considered the defendant as a third time DWI offender and sentenced the defendant to a 180 day prison sentence and a ten-year license suspension. The defendant appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in deeming his New York conviction a violation of a substantially similar law. On appeal, the court affirmed.

Violation of a Substantially Similar Nature

Under New Jersey’s DWI law, a conviction for violating a law in another jurisdiction that is substantially similar in nature to New Jersey’s DWI law is considered a prior conviction for New Jersey DWI purposes, unless the defendant produces clear and convincing evidence that establishes that the conviction in the other jurisdiction was based solely on a violation of a law involving a blood alcohol concentration of less than .08%. Thus, New Jersey courts have held that a New York driving while ability is impaired conviction is substantially similar to driving under the influence pursuant to New Jersey law for the purposes of sentence enhancement, unless the defendant can prove otherwise. Continue reading

Most DWI arrests in New Jersey arise out of a traffic stop. While some traffic stops that result in DWI arrests arise from erratic driving or suspicion of DWI, many traffic stops that ultimately result in a DWI arrest were instituted for reasons that have nothing to do with a belief the driver is intoxicated. Regardless of the reason an officer stops a driver, if a driver is charged with DWI, the state must be able to establish to the stop was based on a reasonable suspicion that the driver violated the law. Otherwise, the stop may be illegal and any evidence obtained during the stop may be precluded. In a recent New Jersey appellate opinion, the court discussed the standards for determining if a plaintiff’s motion to suppress evidence obtained during a traffic stop should be granted in a DWI case. If you are charged with a DWI in New Jersey it is in your best interest to speak to an assertive New Jersey DWI defense attorney to discuss your options to seek a successful outcome.

Facts of the Case

Allegedly, the defendant was stopped by a police officer due to the fact that the defendant’s driver’s side brake light was out. The brake light on the passenger side of the vehicle was functioning, as was the brake light mounted atop the center of the vehicle. The defendant was subsequently arrested and charged with DWI. He filed a motion to suppress the evidence obtained during the stop, but his motion was denied. He then pleaded guilty as charged, reserving the right to appeal, after which he appealed the trial court’s denial of his motion to suppress, arguing that the officer lacked a lawful basis for initiating the stop. On appeal, the appellate court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Lawful Basis to Initiate a Traffic Stop

The only issue on appeal was whether the officer possessed a reasonable articulable suspicion that the defendant was in violation of a statute due to the inactive brake light at the time the officer stopped the defendant. The defendant argued that the relevant statute only required that a vehicle possess two functioning brake lights and therefore maintained that the brake lights on his vehicle at the time of his stop were sufficient. The court disagreed, finding that the plain language of the statute stated that all vehicles other than motorcycles must have at least two brake lights, one on each side of the vehicle, and must also have a high mounted center light. The court noted that the defendant stipulated that he did not have a working brake light on the left side of his vehicle. Thus, the court found the officer had reasonable suspicion to stop the vehicle. Continue reading

Under New Jersey law, prior to conducting field sobriety tests on a person, the police must have reasonable suspicion that the person is intoxicated. Odtherwise, the results of the field sobriety tests may be inadmissible. There is no single fact that constitutes sufficient grounds to reasonable suspicion, however, and in some instances, numerous factors that in and of themselves are insufficient to raise suspicion may combine to justify a DWI investigation, as shown in a recent case arising out of New Jersey. If you are charged with committing a DWI offense in New Jersey, and you believe the police did not have sufficient grounds to conduct an investigation, it is prudent to confer with a trusted New Jersey DWI defense attorney regarding your rights.

Factual Background

Allegedly, a police officer observed the defendant making an illegal left hand turn into the parking lot of a drug store, after which the officer stopped the defendant. When he approached the car, the officer noticed an odor of alcohol emanating from the vehicle but believed it may be coming from one of the passengers. The defendant denied drinking, but the officer administered a horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test on the defendant regardless, while the defendant was seated in the driver’s seat. The officer observed a lack of smooth pursuit during the test, after which he asked the defendant to exit the vehicle. The defendant then submitted to field sobriety testing.

It is reported that the defendant was ultimately arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated. He filed a motion to suppress the result of his field sobriety tests, which the court denied. The defendant then entered a conditional guilty plea and appealed the denial of his motion to suppress. Continue reading

In some cases in which a defendant is charged with DWI, the State has compelling evidence, and it is prudent for the defendant to enter into a plea agreement to reduce the possibility of the imposition of a significant penalty. Thus, a defendant may plead guilty in exchange for a reduced sentence. Often, however, even though the defendant and the State entered into a plea agreement, they will disagree as to what constitutes an appropriate sentence, and ultimately what sentence the defendant receives is up to the judge. While a sentencing judge has discretion in determining a suitable penalty, he or she nonetheless must consider all relevant factors in assessing what is appropriate. This was demonstrated in a recent New Jersey DWI case in which the appellate court overturned a sentence imposed by the trial court due to the judge’s failure to consider all mitigating factors. If you are charged with a DWI offense in New Jersey, it is wise to speak with a vigilant New Jersey DWI defense attorney to discuss your alternatives for protecting your interests.

Factual and Procedural Background

Allegedly, the defendant was driving his vehicle at approximately 8:00 pm when he struck and killed a pedestrian that was walking through an intersection. When police arrived at the scene, they interviewed the defendant, who smelled of alcohol and was lethargic. The defendant agreed to submit to a breath test, which revealed his blood alcohol content to be 0.08 %. He was ultimately charged with third-degree vehicular homicide and driving while intoxicated.

It is reported that the defendant entered into a negotiated plea agreement with the State. At the sentencing hearing, he was advised that the State intended to request that he be sentenced to probation and be required to serve 364 days in a correction center as a condition of his probation. The defendant’s attorney requested that the court sentence the defendant to probation only. During the sentencing hearing, the court refused to consider all mitigating factors and imposed the State’s proposed sentence on the defendant. The defendant appealed. Continue reading

People often refer to New Jersey as the Garden State, in part due to the high number of farms throughout the state. As such, it should come as no surprise that many people who live in New Jersey own tractors.  Although people typically do not use tractors as a primary means of transportation, the New Jersey police can nonetheless charge a person with a DWI for operating a tractor while intoxicated as demonstrated in a recent New Jersey appellate court ruling. If you are faced with DWI charges in New Jersey arising out of your operation of a non-traditional vehicle, it is prudent to speak with a capable New Jersey DWI defense attorney regarding your rights.

Factual Background

It is alleged that a police officer stopped the defendant while he was operating a tractor on the shoulder of a highway. The tractor was not insured or registered with the Department of Motor Vehicles. The defendant agreed to submit to a breath test, which revealed his blood alcohol content to be 0.32%. Additionally, he admitted that he was traveling from a bar where he consumed five to six beers back to his home. The defendant was charged with DWI but argued that he was not guilty, on the basis that tractors do not fall under the definition of motor vehicles as defined by New Jersey law. The defendant was found guilty, after which he appealed.

Definition of a Motor Vehicle for New Jersey DWI Purposes

The sole issue on appeal was whether a farm tractor qualifies as a motor vehicle for purposes of the New Jersey DWI statute. Under New Jersey law, a person can be convicted of driving while intoxicated if he or she operates a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content of 0.08% or higher or while under the influence of alcohol. The court noted that broad readings are afforded to the terms of the DWI statute, to effectuate the intent of the legislature to thwart harm caused by drunk driving accidents. Continue reading

Many people who travel through New Jersey are from other states, but that does not mean they are immune to penalties imposed by New Jersey courts, including sentences in DWI cases. In other words, simply because a driver is licensed in another state does not mean that he or she cannot be required to install an ignition interlock device in his or her car if he or she is convicted of a DWI offense, as demonstrated in a recent case ruled on by the appellate division of the Superior Court of New Jersey. If you were charged with a New Jersey DWI offense, regardless of where you reside, it is wise to consult an assertive New Jersey DWI defense attorney to discuss your possible defenses.

Factual Background

Reportedly, the defendant, who was a licensed Pennsylvania driver, was charged with driving while intoxicated, reckless driving, and refusing to submit to a breath test. He entered into a negotiated plea agreement by which he agreed to plead guilty to the charge of refusing to submit to a breath test, in exchange for dismissals of the remaining charges. He was subsequently sentenced to the loss of his New Jersey driving privileges for seven months and was required to install an ignition interlock device on his vehicle for thirteen months. The defendant argued that, as an out of state driver, he was not required to install the ignition interlock device. The court rejected the defendant’s argument, and the defendant appealed.

Application of New Jersey DWI Laws

On appeal, the defendant argued that the trial court erred in imposing the requirement that the defendant install an ignition interlock device for refusing to submit to a breath test because he was a licensed Pennsylvania driver. The appellate court disagreed. The court explained that in interpreting a statute, a court must evaluate the plain language of the statute and employ common sense in determining the meaning of the words chosen by the legislature, drawing inferences based on the statute’s composition. If the language of the statute is clear and straightforward, the process of interpretation is over, whereas if the statute is vague, the court must rely on intrinsic evidence. Continue reading

Although many people think of DWI arrests as arising out of the operation of a vehicle while intoxicated due to the consumption of alcohol, a person can be charged with a DWI for driving or operating a vehicle while under the influence of other substances that impairs his or her ability to drive safely, such as marijuana. Recently, an appellate court in New Jersey discussed what is considered adequate evidence to convict a defendant of a marijuana-related DWI offense. If you live in New Jersey and are charged with a marijuana-related DWI, it is advisable to consult a New Jersey DWI defense attorney dedicated to helping DWI defendants protect their interests.

Factual Background

It is reported that the defendant was stopped after an officer observed him drifting over the double yellow line on a highway. When the officer approached the vehicle, he reportedly smelled both raw and burnt marijuana. The defendant’s speech was slow and slurred, and he reported that he was swerving because he was trying to avoid potholes. The defendant denied smoking marijuana and stated that someone else had driven his vehicle. The officer administered field sobriety tests, which the defendant failed. The officer then searched the defendant’s vehicle and found a bag of marijuana, an e-cigarette with a marijuana concentrate cartridge, and two marijuana cigars. The defendant was arrested and charged with DWI and other related offenses. He was convicted, after which he appealed, arguing the evidence was insufficient to convict him of DWI.

Evidence Sufficient to Convict, a Defendant of a Marijuana-Related DWI Offense

On appeal, the defendant argued, in part, that the trial court erred in allowing the arresting officer to testify as an expert witness, violating his due process rights. The appellate court disagreed, finding that the State did not introduce the officer as an expert witness at trial, but that during the appeal to the Law Division it argued that the officer should be regarded as an expert due to the extent of his skills, training, and experience, and the Law Division agreed. The court noted that under New Jersey law, police officers can be qualified as experts on marijuana intoxication, due to their training. Thus, the court found that no reversible error occurred. Continue reading

An issue commonly disputed in New Jersey DWI cases is whether the State has sufficient evidence to establish that the defendant was operating a vehicle while intoxicated. Due to several recent unpublished opinions set forth by the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey, the court set forth a published opinion in which it clarified in explicit terms what constitutes operation for the purposes of a DWI conviction. If you reside in New Jersey and are faced with DWI charges it is prudent to confer with a vigilant New Jersey DWI defense attorney to assess what options you may exercise to protect your rights.

Facts Surrounding the Defendant’s Arrest

It is alleged that the police were called to a grocery store parking lot to investigate the defendant, who was sleeping in his car with the engine running. The officer awoke the defendant, who smelled like alcohol and advised that he had been sleeping for about half an hour. The officer also observed several prescription pill bottles on the passenger seat. The defendant agreed to submit to numerous field sobriety tests, all of which he failed. As such, he was arrested and charged with DWI and refusing to submit to a breath test. Following a trial, he was convicted on both charges. He then appealed, arguing that the State could not prove he was operating his vehicle at the time of his arrest.

Operating a Vehicle Under the New Jersey DWI Statute

On appeal, the court noted that while a violation of N.J.S.A. 39:4-50(a) is usually referred to as a DWI, the statute does not actually mention driving as an element of the crime that must be proven in order to obtain a conviction. Rather, the statute merely prohibits a person from operating a vehicle while under the influence. The court noted that operation has been broadly interpreted and includes more than just driving. In other words, it includes sleeping or sitting in a car with the engine running, even if the car is not moving. Continue reading

One of the tenets of criminal law is that a defendant has the right to a fair and impartial trial. Thus, if a DWI defendant believes that a judge is unduly prejudiced or biased against the defendant, he or she can file a motion for recusal. Recusal is only granted in limited circumstances, however, as demonstrated in a recent case in which a New Jersey appellate court affirmed the defendant’s DWI conviction following the denial of a motion for recusal. If you are faced with DWI charges, it is advisable to meet with a proficient DWI defense attorney to discuss the rights you are afforded under the law.

Procedural Background of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was charged with DWI in December 2017. The matter was listed for a hearing in May 2018; however, the defendant’s attorney failed to appear due to a medical issue. The day prior to the hearing, an associate from the defendant’s attorney’s office informed the court that none of the attorneys from the firm were available to represent the defendant at the hearing, and no one would appear on behalf of the defendant.

Allegedly, during the hearing, the judge expressed concern regarding the scheduling issue and the late notice provided by the defendant’s attorney regarding his inability to appear. The matter was relisted. At the subsequent hearing, the defendant’s case was not addressed by the court until several hours after it was scheduled to be heard. The defendant’s attorney expressed concerns that the delay was punishment for his failure to appear at the earlier hearing. He further stated he believed the judge had a conflict of interest and filed a motion for recusal. The motion for recusal was ultimately denied, and the defendant entered a conditional guilty plea. The defendant’s sentence was stayed pending appeal.

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