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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.

Continue reading

One of the key elements of a New Jersey DWI charge is the operation of a vehicle. If the State is unable to prove this element, a person charged with DWI should not be convicted. The Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, recently re-affirmed, however, that operation is not limited to actually driving a vehicle, and a defendant can be found to be operating a vehicle even if the vehicle was in park at the time of the police’s investigation into the matter. If you are charged with DWI, even though you did not drive a vehicle while intoxicated, you should consult a proficient New Jersey DWI defense attorney to discuss what defenses you may be able to assert.

Factual Background

It is reported that a police officer observed the defendant sleeping in the driver’s seat of a car that was parked in the lot of a convenience store. The car was parked properly, but the engine was running. The officer attempted to wake the defendant many times before he finally awoke. When the defendant opened his window, he smelled of alcohol. It took him several attempts to turn off his vehicle, and his conversation with the officer was incoherent.

It is alleged that the officer performed field sobriety tests on the defendant, which the defendant failed. He was subsequently arrested and charged with DWI and reckless driving. He was convicted of DWI, second offense. He then appealed, arguing that the State failed to prove he operated a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. Continue reading

In many instances, even if a person is convicted of DWI, he or she may be able to obtain post-conviction relief. While there are substantive requirements a person must meet to obtain a reversal of a DWI conviction, there are procedural requirements as well. This was discussed in a recent case in which the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, affirmed the denial of a defendant’s petition for post-conviction relief, due to the defendant’s extreme delay in seeking such relief. If you were previously convicted of DWI or currently face DWI charges, it is wise to speak with a New Jersey DWI defense attorney to your options for protecting your rights.

Background of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant pled guilty to two separate DWI charges twenty-eight and twenty-five years before he filed two petitions for post-conviction relief in 2018, asking the court to allow him to withdraw his guilty pleas. The defendant argued, in part, that he was not represented by an attorney for the first conviction, and that for both convictions, the court did not elicit the factual basis for either conviction, and he was not informed of his potential defenses or the consequences of entering a guilty plea. The municipal court denied the petitions, after which the defendant appealed. On appeal, the Superior Court affirmed.

Procedural Requirements for Seeking Post-Conviction Relief

Under New Jersey law, any petition seeking post-conviction relief must be filed within five years after a conviction is entered, or a sentence is imposed, unless the defendant can demonstrate that the delay in filing was due to his or her excusable neglect. In the subject case, the defendant argued that the delay was caused by his lack of knowledge regarding the law and his ignorance of the consequence of DWI convictions. Thus, the court found that the defendant failed to establish that his neglect in filing the petitions in a timely manner was excusable. Continue reading

When some people are stopped by the police due to suspicion of DWI, they may be tempted to avoid exiting their vehicles, under the mistaken belief that they can avoid a DWI charge by refusing to submit to field sobriety testing. However, as demonstrated in a recent case ruled on by the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, an officer’s observations of a person in a vehicle may be sufficient for there to be reasonable suspicion that the person is guilty of DWI. If you are charged with a DWI crime in New Jersey, it is sensible to meet with a New Jersey DWI defense attorney to discuss your potential defenses.

Factual Background

It is reported that a police officer observed the defendant making a turn into the wrong lane of traffic. He pulled the defendant over, at which time he noticed a strong smell of alcohol emanating from her car, and that her eyes were bloodshot and watery. The officer asked the defendant to exit the vehicle to perform field sobriety testing and she refused. Two other officers responded to the scene, and each independently requested the defendant to exit the vehicle to submit to field sobriety testing, and she once again refused. She was ultimately arrested for obstructing the administration of the law and transported to the police station.

Allegedly, while at the police station, the defendant submitted to a breath test that revealed her blood alcohol content to be 0.91%. She was charged with DWI, reckless driving, and obstructing the administration of the law. She was found guilty of all charges and appealed, arguing in part that the police lacked reasonable suspicion to order her out of her car or probable cause to arrest her. Continue reading

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