When a driver is arrested for driving while intoxicated in New Jersey, there are many issues that must be considered when heading for trial. From the time the driver is arrested all the way through the conclusion of the trial, the entire case must be examined by the defense attorney looking for a way in which to have the charges dismissed, reduced or to win an acquittal. Given the penalties that accompany a DWI conviction and what must be dealt with in its aftermath, it is to a person’s benefit to do whatever possible to have the charges dropped or be acquitted.
Process For A DWI Stop And Arrest
The entire process that entails a DWI stop and arrest is important because it will directly impact the result of the case. When a law enforcement officer makes a traffic stop for a suspected DWI, it must be made with some reason. An officer is not allowed to stop a vehicle on a whim. If, for example, a vehicle is swerving in and out of traffic, driving on the shoulder of the road, breaking traffic laws or doing dangerous things, then the officer can stop the car and investigate. When the officer speaks to the driver, signals of intoxication will be watched for. This can include slurred speech, bloodshot eyes and the smell of alcohol.
If the officer still believes that there is a DWI in progress, field sobriety tests will be given. These will include the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test, the Walk and Turn test and the One-Leg Stand test. After that, a breathalyzer test will be given to determine the blood alcohol content. There are certain procedures that the officer must follow with the breathalyzer. For example, there must be a 20 minute period of observation to ensure that the driver doesn’t smoke a cigarette, chew gum, regurgitate or do anything else that will compromise the validity of the test.
If the driver is 21 or over and registers 0.08% or above on the breath test, there will be a DWI arrest. For drivers under 21, the level is 0.01%. For commercial drivers, it is 0.04%.
Penalties when convicted for a BAC of 0.08% and below 0.10% will include a fine of $250 to $400. There will be an annual surcharge of $1,000 for three years. The driver’s license will be suspended for three months. There could be a jail sentence of up to 30 days. There will be a $230 charge for the Intoxicated Driver Resource Center (IDRC). $75 will go to the Neighborhood Services Fund. $100 will go to each of the drunk driving fund and the Alcohol Education and Rehabilitation Fund (AERF).
Preparation For A DWI Defense
An attorney who is experienced in DWI defense knows that each case must be treated individually and the strategy depends on the circumstances. The first step that an attorney will take is to conduct and interview with the defendant to find out what happened in the defendant’s own words. The attorney will give an assessment of the case, a possible strategy and consider the potential of having the charges reduced. The attorney will inform the court that he or she is the defense attorney and put in a request for the evidence including the arrest report, physical evidence, blood and breath test results and anything else that is relevant to the case.
Once the attorney has the evidence, it must be broken down and studied. Poring through the evidence, the defense attorney will search for mistakes that might have been made in the arrest process. Anything can be useful in tearing apart the prosecution’s case. If the officer didn’t have a viable reason for making the stop, this is fertile ground to call the entire case into question. If the officer didn’t have the proper certification to give the breath test or was using a machine that was not properly calibrated, other openings will be available to formulate a defense.
The proper protocol when giving a breath test is imperative to the case. An officer who doesn’t adhere to the 20 minute observation period is violating that protocol. With the field sobriety tests, a medical condition might have led to a failure on one or all of them. If the area upon which the tests were given was graded, rocky or strewn with holes, the test might not have been fair to the driver.
Preparing For Testimony
Once the evidence has been examined, the attorney will decide whether or not there is a possibility of having the charges dismissed due to procedural violations. After that, preparations will be made for the driver’s testimony. The attorney will walk the client through the types of questions that will be asked, how to dress and act at trial and basic foundations for behavior.
Knowing the kinds of questions that will be asked by both the defense attorney, prosecutor and judge will go a long way toward the defendant being ready to testify. While a drunk driving arrest carries with it serious penalties and can significantly impact a person’s life, there are often openings to achieve a positive result for the defendant. Being adequately prepared is a large part of that.