When a driver is arrested for DWI in New Jersey, there must be some form of evidence for the officer to make the arrest. Without evidence, there is no case. It works the same way for the defense attorney as well as no defense can be presented without evidence of the client’s innocence or at least reasonable doubt to justify an acquittal.
How A DWI Is Investigated
A DWI stop isn’t a simple matter of the officer deciding that a driver looks suspicious and pulling the vehicle over. There must be reasonable cause to make the traffic stop. If, for example, the driver is breaking traffic laws or weaving unsteadily in the roadway, the officer can make the traffic stop and investigate a potential DWI.
Once the stop has been made and the officer speaks to the driver, there are certain indicators that will be looked for to decide if the driver has been drinking. These include slurred speech, bloodshot eyes and the smell of alcohol emanating from the vehicle. After it has been determined that a driver might be drunk, the officer will have the subject perform field sobriety tests like the Walk and Turn test. If there is still a belief that the driver is under the influence, the officer will ask that a breathalyzer test be taken. A driver is not allowed to refuse to take a breathalyzer test when requested to take one by a law enforcement officer. This is part of the implied consent that a person accepts when receiving a driver’s license. Even if the driver has not been drinking at all, a charge of Refusal can be made. When given a breathalyzer test, if the driver registers 0.08% or above, there will be an arrest for DWI. It is also possible that blood samples will be taken at a local hospital.
Evidence In A DWI Case
The defense attorney will receive all the information gathered in the case. This is known as discovery. It is a constitutional right that a person who is charged with DWI receive all the information that is deemed pertinent in a case. You will receive all of the DWI evidence that is being presented against you and this includes the evidence that can get you acquitted.
If, for example, a driver was not driving erratically prior to the traffic stop and the officer states that he or she was, the videotape from the officer’s dashboard camera might prove that the driver was telling the truth. Or if the driver was not given the field sobriety tests on even ground and lost balance because of that rather than due to intoxication, that can be important. An officer is required to wait 20 minutes before giving a breathalyzer test in order to observe the suspect. If the suspect chews gum, chews tobacco, regurgitates or smokes a cigarette, this can compromise the accuracy of the breathalyzer. With evidence of this, the charges might be dismissed.
Discovery will also include the results of the tests that were given. Perhaps the breathalyzer test was not calibrated correctly or the officer wasn’t certified to give the test. These are valid reasons for the charges to be dropped.
Strategies Defense Attorneys Will Take With Evidence
The above-listed factors that could influence a DWI arrest will be scoured by the defense attorney. If there is evidence that the process wasn’t adhered to as it should have been, expert testimony might be enlisted to contradict the prosecution’s account of what happened. The video and audio of the arrest could be a treasure trove for the defense if the arrest and report are not in line with what can be seen on the videotape. If a driver doesn’t sound as if he or she is slurring words and the officer used this as a basis to continue with the investigation, it could open the door for the defense to try and win the case.
Because the penalties for a DWI conviction can be so harsh and extensive, it is imperative for a driver – especially one who is innocent – to try and dispute these charges. A conviction for DWI will lead to harsh fines, raised insurance rates, the loss of driving privileges and possibly jail time. With evidence that contradicts the charges, it is smart for a driver and the defense attorney to do whatever is possible to use that evidence to have the charges dismissed or to win an acquittal.