Under New Jersey law, people can be charged with DWI offenses, even if they were not actually driving at the time of their arrest. Rather, under the DWI law, a person merely has to “operate” a vehicle while intoxicated to be found guilty of DWI. What constitutes operation is a question frequently brought before the New Jersey courts. In a recent ruling in which a DWI conviction was confirmed, a New Jersey court explained what is considered sufficient evidence of operation for purposes of DWI. If you are accused of a DWI crime, it is in your best interest to meet with a New Jersey DWI defense lawyer to evaluate what defenses you may be able to assert.
The Defendant’s Arrest
It is reported that police officers observed the defendant standing on the side of a highway next to his vehicle at approximately 2 am. The vehicle’s lights were flashing, and the defendant was adjusting his pants. The officers spoke with the defendant, who advised that he was on the way home from the casino and stopped to urinate. He admitted he had a drink earlier in the day and agreed to submit to a field sobriety test. He failed the test and refused to provide a breath sample and was subsequently arrested and charged with refusal to submit to a chemical breath test and DWI. He was convicted as charged, after which he appealed. On appeal, he argued, among other things, that the State failed to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that he had the intent to operate his vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. The appellate court rejected the defendant’s argument and affirmed his conviction.
Operation of a Vehicle
Under New Jersey law, a person that operates a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or more, or while under the influence of alcohol, is guilty of DWI. The court explained that operates is broadly construed to include more than just driving. The operation, then, can be established by numerous circumstances, including an observation of the defendant in or out of the vehicle under circumstances that would indicate the defendant had been driving while intoxicated, actual observation of the defendant driving while intoxicated, or the defendant’s admission. Continue reading