Many hundreds of Garden State drivers are pulled over every month by police officers, during which a certain percentage of those individuals are accused of driving while under the influence of alcohol. Although a fair number of motorists are routinely convicted of DWI or drug DUI, there are many defendants who avoid a guilty verdict, as well as the stiff monetary penalties that come with it. Law enforcement officers certainly have a difficult and many times dangers job to perform, but they are not always correct in their assessment of some supposedly drunken drivers.
As experienced New Jersey trial attorneys, my colleagues and I have great respect for our men and women in uniform. But there are instances when we must stand back and consider the occasional downside that comes with the great authority that we give our municipal patrolmen and state troopers. It is because law enforcement officials have such power — to arrest and charge citizens with driving offenses and more egregious crimes — that we must hold them to a higher standard, understanding at the same time the challenging nature of their position.
In particular, as DWI defense lawyers, we find it hard to accept the illegal behavior of some policemen when it comes to drinking and driving. From our standpoint, having defended hundreds of motorists against charges of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated by alcohol or a controlled dangerous substance (CDS), it is unconscionable when a patrolman violates the very laws that he or she is responsible to enforce. Quite simply, there is never a good excuse for a law enforcement officer to be arrested for drinking and driving, yet this can and does happen from time to time.
As New Jersey drunken driving attorneys, I and my legal team regularly stand before judges and prosecutors to defend our clients against DWI-DUI charges. Because we defend individuals accused of driving while intoxicated, we believe that every representative of our state’s law enforcement community should be held to the same standards as the rest of the citizenry. A recent news story pointed out the sad occasion of a local policeman who admitted to DWI in the spring last year.
According to news reports, William Parenti Jr. of the North Plainfield Police Department pled guilty last month in a Mansfield Twp. Courtroom to drunk driving charges lodged against him in May 2013. The officer, who had been on the North Plainfield police force since January 2013, is also the son of that department’s police chief, William G. Parenti. As a result of that guilty plea, Parenti, Jr. had his driver’s license suspended for 90 days and received fines of more than $600. He will also be required to attend IRDC driving school for 12 hours.
The officer was arrested in the course of a police investigation into a car accident on May 16 last year; the incident took place along a portion of Mt. Bethel Rd. in Warren Twp., after which the man was issued summonses for breath test refusal, careless driving and obstructing passing of other vehicles. According to court records, those latter charges were dismissed in return for a plea deal with the local prosecutor’s office.
The crash came just months after Parenti, Jr. was sworn in at the police department where his father serves as police chief; the newly sworn 22-year-old officer represented at that time the fourth generation of policemen in his family. According to news articles, the incident took place in the early morning hours on May 16, 2013.
Unlike indictable crimes, which typically require an officer to be suspended without pay, those involving a traffic violation — even DWI — do not require immediate loss of pay or suspension from the force. According to North Plainfield police officials at the time of the incident, an accused officer is presumed innocent for departmental purposes until a hearing can determine the outcome. Following a verdict, according to reports, an internal affairs investigation would come next.
North Plainfield police officer, chief’s son admits to DWI; NJ.com; February 20, 2014
North Plainfield police chief’s son charged with DWI in Warren, NJ.com, May 23, 2013