Beware the ever-present danger of being pulled over for a simple vehicle equipment violation, as it could possibly open the door to an even more costly drunk driving arrest. This may sound like an odd warning, but as professional DWI defense lawyers, my colleagues and I are well aware of the number of individuals who have been charged with drunk driving following a traffic stop for vehicle infractions as basic as a burned out taillight.
The fact of the matter is that not replacing a simple $10 light bulb can in some cases lead to hundreds or thousands of dollars in fines, fees and auto insurance premium increases. Unfortunately, by the time many drivers realize their vehicle may have a problem, a police stop is already well underway. And, if the driver has had some beer, wine, or a mixed drink recently, then there is a good chance that a DWI summons may be on the way, along with that inevitable vehicle equipment violation.
As New Jersey drunken driving defense attorneys, we know how human nature can affect the outcome of many aspects of life, not to mention traffic stops and drunken driving arrests. My law firm has represented dozens upon dozens of drivers who may or may not have indulged themselves to excess prior to getting behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. And, it’s difficult to predict how a certain amount of alcohol is going to affect any one person.
This is why we typically recommend to anyone who asks that it is never a good idea to take a chance on driving after having even one drink, because being stopped by police can become so much more expensive than taking a cab or spending a night at a friend’s home. Having a designated driver or taking public transportation can be the wisest choice when alcohol has been consumed.
Regardless of the preventative measures available to most motorists, the fact remains that defective vehicle equipment is one of the more common triggers for a roadside traffic stop. Some of these DWI- or drug DUI-related police stops may be based on faulty assumptions or improper procedures on the part of the arresting officer, but many others turn out to be legitimate and, therefore, potentially costly to a drunk driving defendant.
A news story from a little while ago may serve as a warning to many drivers. According to that report, a 55-year-old woman from Toms River, NJ, was actually arrested at her home following calls to the local police department advising officers that a car with two flat tires was seen driving along Main Street on a Sunday afternoon.
Based on information from the Toms River police, the arrest came at half past three o’clock when officers appeared at the woman’s residence on Walton St. Witnesses who called police had apparently identified the lady’s car, which patrolmen found sitting in the suspect’s driveway. As a result, the woman was taken into custody and charged with DWI by police.
While this may be an extreme case of a vehicle violation leading to a drunken driving arrest, the fact remains that the odds of being arrested and charged with DWI-DUI can be increased substantially if common sense is thrown out the window. To operate a motor vehicle on a public roadway with two flat tires and not expect some amount of attention is to ignore the obvious. And, having taken a drink before the incident would only compound the likelihood of being charged with a DWI offense.
Whether this woman was responsible for her actions as the police saw it, or ultimately guilty of the charges levied against her, it is still important to ask if such a situation could have been avoided, and with a better potential outcome, had the driver never gotten behind the wheel to begin with. A call for a tow truck, had she realized her problem, would be much cheaper in the long run that the penalties resulting from a guilty verdict.
Toms River motorist driving on flat tires leads to DWI charge, cops say; APP.com; November 12, 2013