An improper arrest for DWI in New Jersey can involve a procedural infraction committed by the arresting officer just prior to initiating the traffic stop, during the stop, while you were conducting the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests or while you were being administered the breath test. Because most drivers are not familiar with the standards a police officer is required to follow in performing an arrest for DWI, it typically takes the mind and eyes of an attorney experienced in defending clients' rights to find an improper arrest. There can be several subtle procedural violations that an attorney might see as a viable infringement upon their client's rights and therefore fight to have their DWI charges dismissed. However, an attorney only might need just one. In order to uncover any actions or procedural violations on the part of law enforcement, your attorney will begin with probable cause and work their way forward.
Was There Probable Cause To Initiate The Traffic Stop In New Jersey?
Prior to performing any traffic stop in New Jersey, an officer must have probable cause to believe that the driver was committing a traffic violation. For your DWI charge to have any merit in court, the officer must witness a violation and, from the surrounding circumstances, have good cause to believe that the driver pulled over has been operating the car under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Additionally, it is lawful for an officer to pull over a driver if there is an infraction visible on the car itself, regardless of the driving conduct. These non-moving violations can include a non-functioning tail light or expired tags. If your attorney can prove that you were the victim of an improper traffic stop, it may be a successful challenge to your DWI charge.
Some reasons one may be initially pulled over while driving on New Jersey roads include:
- No signal when making a turn or changing lanes
- No headlights turned on after dusk
- Erratic driving (swerving or weaving for no apparent reason)
- Caused damage to property
- Reckless driving
- Another motor vehicle violation
The officer may also pull over an individual in New Jersey if the vehicle is in violation of one of the following problems:
- Visual defect or improper equipment
- Broken or malfunctioning headlight
- Broken or not working taillights
- License plate not on vehicle or expired
- License plate obstructed by object
- License plate display lights not working at night
- Dark window tint
- Windows are shattered to the point of being dangerous
- Tires possibly defective or promoting hazard
Field Sobriety Testing
When an officer asks you to get out of the car to conduct standardized field sobriety tests because they suspect you are under the influence, he or she must follow the testing guidelines created by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). The procedures in administering these tests are to be strictly adhered to or the results might not be accurate. Your DWI attorney can attack the field sobriety test results if there may have been something influencing the results.
Dräger Alcotest® 7110 Breath Test For Blood Alcohol Content
Blood alcohol content (BAC) is obtained upon an arrest for DWI, either through breath, blood or urine. The attorneys at Villani & DeLuca, P.C. are trained and certified in the Dräger Alcotest® 7110 breath test device which is used by New Jersey law enforcement. Because of the level of sophistication of this type of breathalyzer, the officer administering the test must be trained and certified in doing so.
If your over-the-limit BAC is tested using breath samples, your attorney will investigate the operating officer's training, experience and the procedures followed at the police station where your breath test was conducted. If the officer who is administering the test has expired certification, has been improperly trained, failed to calibrate the device prior to your test, failed to change the mouth piece or didn't wait 20 minutes between test are all challenge a qualified DWI lawyer will use to attempt to suppress the BAC from evidence.
Miranda Requirements In A DWI
There is quite a bit of confusion and misinformation among citizens about the procedural guidelines regarding the reading of one's Miranda rights by an officer upon being arrested for a DWI in the state of New Jersey. Many believe the Miranda doesn't apply to being arrested for DWI or other traffic related violations, while others, mostly due to police dramas on TV and in movies, believe that an officer must recite the Miranda warning immediately upon questioning an individual in any circumstance.
“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, you may apply to the court and one will be appointed to you.”
The truth is, the Miranda warning, or Miranda rights, must be read to an individual upon arrest and suspicion of criminal activity. An officer must read an individual his or her Miranda rights before interrogation and during any line of questioning in which an individual's answers, comments or statements could possibly incriminate themselves.
A police officer has the right to ask you questions upon initiating a motor vehicle stop, and you have the right to politely decline to answer. However, if the officer asks to see your driver's license, registration or proof of insurance, you may not refuse to provide the requested documents. The officer may also ask you some basic questions pertaining to where you were coming from or where you are headed at the time of your stop, which is appropriate without the mention of your rights under Miranda.
As to the reading of the Miranda warning in New Jersey DWI arrests, police must notify you of your Miranda rights upon being arrested for a DWI. This is commonly done either at the scene of the traffic stop or when you are subsequently taken to the police department for processing and breath test administration. You will be shown a standard Miranda warning form and you will be required to read and sign this form to verify that you understand your rights.
Defending Improper Charging Documents
When preparing your New Jersey DWI defense, your attorney will enter his or her appearance with the court on your behalf and request what is called “discovery”. Discovery is a term used for all documents related to your case, all of the evidence gathered by police against you, such as your drunk driving report, breath or blood test results, the Miranda form you signed and more. These records will be sent to your attorney's office and he or she will review them for completeness and accuracy. In each case, a defendant is entitled to know what the State has against him or her to better prepare their defense. Discovery, or sometimes called “charging documents”, can also consist of the police incident report, field sobriety test notes and audio/video recordings.
Your attorney wants to exhaust all avenues in their strategy of defending you to the best of his or her ability. To do this, they want to see all of the documents involved in your case. For one, they do not want to be blindsided by any evidence they were unaware of. Another reason is so they can meticulously scrutinize each document to ensure there are no mistakes.
One improper charging document would include an alcohol influence report documenting inaccurate or fabricated breath test results. If your breath test results were 0.07%, but the report indicates the results were 0.08%, the BAC results could be suppressed from your case.
There are numerous mistakes that can lead to an improper charging document being suppressed. Your attorney can find these mistakes. This is just one reason you should always allow an experienced attorney to review your case and defend you in court. They have the knowledge to look for these little minute details that can have tremendous implications on the results of your case.
Call Villani & DeLuca, P.C. DWI Defense Lawyers Today
While there are no guarantees that your case will be dismissed due to an improper traffic stop, without having been represented by an attorney that has the knowledge of the laws and procedures in New Jersey DWI cases. A trained DWI Lawyer will know how to scrutinize an improper traffic stop and find the mistakes the arresting officer might have made. If you have been recently charged with DWI in Ocean County or Monmouth County, New Jersey, call the attorneys at Villani & DeLuca, P.C. immediately. The DWI defense lawyers at Villani & DeLuca, P.C. represent clients facing DWI charges throughout New Jersey on a daily basis. They are trained in all aspects of the DWI process in New Jersey, including standardized field sobriety testing and the Alcotest® breathalyzer device used by New Jersey police.