One of things drivers in New Jersey dread more than anything is being pulled over by police. When this happens and it’s because the driver is suspected of driving while intoxicated (DWI), it can be an even more daunting experienced. Drivers need to be aware of what they should do if they’re pulled over by law enforcement and strategies they should take to protect themselves from making the situation worse no matter how much they’ve been drinking. With the known penalties, costs and social stigma of being arrested for DWI, it’s natural to be intimidated and worried. That, however, doesn’t mean that a driver should deviate from following appropriate procedures when stopped. The following are tips that drivers should adhere to if they find themselves in this unfortunate situation.
Pull The Vehicle Over Safely
For some individuals, there is a temptation to try and elude the police. This is always a bad idea and will make things exponentially worse for the driver. Looking into the rear-view mirror and seeing the flashing lights and speeding police cruiser might yield the reaction, “Why is he stopping me?” Even if you have been drinking, there’s always the chance that the traffic stop has nothing to do with weaving, dangerous actions or other maneuvers generally associated with DWI. You could have a broken taillight. It’s possible that you were speeding. Or it could be for a reason other than a DWI. The important thing to do is pull the vehicle over to the side of the road in a safe manner and follow the officer’s instructions.
Have Your Personal Information Ready
The officer will ask for your driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance. He or she might ask you a question that is designed to trap you and gauge your response to see if you’re acting suspiciously such as, “Do you know why I stopped you?” The answer to this question should always be, “No.” When the officer requests your credentials, provide them in a polite and non-threatening manner. It is important to be non-threatening. This means doing as the officer says, keeping your hands visible and acting relaxed. Giving off the impression that you have something to hide will pique the officer’s interest and lead to suspicion that you were doing something wrong even if you weren’t.
Don’t Give Information The Officer Didn’t Ask For
Volunteering information that was not requested by the officer is unnecessary and could damage your case if in fact you were committing a DWI. The officer will ask speak to you and ask you for your information, but you don’t have to elaborate of give extended responses to the questions that are asked. It’s possible that there will be a dashboard camera on the officer’s vehicle recording everything you say and do, so anything could be a negative should there be an arrest. Trying to charm the officer is not going to work. Making an attempt to talk the officer out of arresting you for DWI won’t help your situation. You have rights and your statements can be incriminating and actions can be used against you when the case goes to court. It’s best to say as little as possible.
Be Courteous And Politely Assert Your Legal Rights
If the officer stops you and you reply with, “I didn’t do anything! Why are you stopping me? Why don’t you catch some real criminals instead?” it’s going to place the traffic stop in an adversarial situation, make the officer feel as if you’re being difficult and cause you more problems. If you simply reply to the officer’s queries without vitriol and try to be courteous, you won’t do anything that could harm you if you are indeed arrested. There is the possibility that you were stopped on suspicion of DWI, but exhibit no signs of it when the officer investigates and he might let you go. If you’d impolite or aggressive, this is unlikely.
You have rights even during a traffic stop on suspicion of DWI. If the officer asks you if you have been drinking – even if it was an amount that you know shouldn’t raise your blood alcohol content (BAC) above the 0.08% that will warrant a DWI arrest – it is preferable to decline to answer without legal counsel. Anything you say can be used in a case.
Think Before Consenting To Field Sobriety Tests
If the officer believes there that you have been drinking or are under the influence of drugs, you will likely be asked to complete field sobriety tests. There are standardized tests such as the walk-and-turn, one-leg stand and horizontal gaze nystagmus. There are also non-standardized tests such as the finger to nose test or being asked to count backwards from 100 along with many others. If you refuse to take the tests, you will look guilty and it won’t help you avoid arrest. If you’re clearly going to have a problem passing the tests, it might be preferable to decline to take them. If you have a medical problem that will make it appear as if you’ve been drinking, then that must be explained to the officer at the time of the traffic stop.
You Must Take the Breath Test
The officer will ask you to take a breathalyzer test. While many people are under the mistaken belief that they are allowed to refuse to take the breathalyzer test as part of their constitutional rights, in New Jersey there is what is known as the law of implied consent. This means when asked to take a breath test to determine BAC, it must be taken or the driver will face the charge of refusal. A conviction on refusal carries with it the same penalties as a DWI. So even if you weren’t drinking or weren’t drinking enough to be charged with DWI, you will still be charged with refusal and it is difficult to win acquittal against this charge. Having a DWI and a refusal charge against you will make your legal issues worse.
It must also be remembered that the officer has rules to follow regarding a breathalyzer test as well. For example, if the officer doesn’t wait the required 20 minute observation period before administering the test or is not certified to give the test, its results – no matter what they are – can be declared inadmissible.
If you fail the breathalyzer test, you can request that a blood test be given to determine your BAC in another way.
Maintain Records Of What Happened
Keep track of all the facts in the case from the time you were stopped until your arrest. Remember where you were stopped so you can go back and take photographs to show evidence that perhaps the field sobriety tests were given in an area that was strewn with rocks and uneven. If you have a medical problem that will explain why you appeared to be intoxicated, getting documentation of this can significantly help your case.
Speak To A Qualified Lawyer
When you are facing DWI charges, you will need legal assistance. You are not going to be able to handle the case yourself and win. If there are problems with the arrest and evidence that should be thrown out, an attorney will find it. Don’t make the mistake of accepting DWI charges when there is the chance that you could be acquitted.