Understanding New Jersey DWI Laws

woman being pulled over by police

New Jersey takes a very tough approach on drunk driving and has passed many laws to combat DWI on New Jersey streets. Ignorance is never a valid defense when you try to convince a judge to find you not guilty of a DUI charge. This section covers the different types of laws that police can use to detain and arrest you for driving under the influence.

The most important safety precaution to adhere to when operating a motor vehicle is to avoid drinking alcoholic beverages altogether or to never drink in excess of the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit before getting behind the wheel in New Jersey. Police officers have duties to perform including highway patrol. What happens if an officer pulls you over without probable cause? You were driving the speed limit and very alert of your surrounding environment, but the officer accuses you of driving while under the influence of alcohol.

In order for the officer to make an arrest, he or she is required to follow the appropriate process under the law, without violating any of the driver's basic rights under the federal and state constitutions. There are three significant steps in the DWI arrest process including motor vehicle observation, the traffic stop and screening of the driver prior to arrest.

Observation Of The Driver's Motor Vehicle While Driving

The side effects of alcohol can include irrational behavior, drowsiness, vision impairment, lack of coordination and slurred speech. Police officers stop people on the road because they are driving with no headlights during the night, too slow or too fast, for failure to use a signal when turning, or ignoring a stop sign; just to name a few reasons. Whatever the reason, the officer needs justification or probable cause before pulling over a driver and issuing a citation.

Below is a list of some justifications for a traffic stop under New Jersey's traffic laws.

  • Erratic driving and laws or ordinance broken
  • Belief that the driver is physically unable to operate a vehicle
  • Weaving
  • Swerving
  • Quick and frequent braking
  • Wide turning
  • Very slow driving
  • Straddling lanes
  • Making complete stops while in traffic for no reason
  • Driving in the wrong lane
  • No headlights or dimmed lights at nighttime
  • Driving too close to other automobiles

If an officer witnesses a motor vehicle being operated in one or more of the listed ways, or if the driver is in violation of any other regulation under Title 39 of New Jersey's statutes, he or she can engage in a traffic stop.

The Traffic Stop

The traffic stop begins when the officer activates the sirens on the police car to warn the driver that he or she needs to pull over their automobile. After the driver pulls to the side of the road, the officer will approach the car and will begin to make observations in regards to the vehicle, the driver and any passengers. The officer will begin to interviews the driver by asking questions and requesting documentation such as the drivers license, registration and proof of insurance. The driver remains inside the vehicle while the officer does their initial questioning. The officer will carefully look inside the vehicle for any open containers of alcoholic beverages or narcotics in plain view. If the officer witnesses any indication that the driver may be intoxicated, such as the smell of alcohol, the officer will ask the driver to exit the vehicle. Once the driver is out of the car, the officer will conduct a field sobriety tests, as described below.

Field Sobriety Testing

Before the officer makes an arrest for DUI or DWI, the driver is screened with a series of field sobriety tests. The tests are given to observe impairment and physical bodily movements. The officer may request the driver to perform an eye test, stand on one foot for 30 seconds, perform the walk and turn test, among others. The driver's balance and reactions are observed during these tests. If the officer's suspicions are confirmed that the driver was driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs the officer will then place the driver under arrest and bring them to the police station for processing.

Call A New Jersey DWI Lawyer To Fight Your Charge

When the vehicle observation, traffic stop and screening of the driver is all complete, an arrest will be made if the officer has probable cause to believe that the driver was driving while intoxicated. If you have experienced a DWI arrest like described above while driving in Ocean County or Monmouth County, New Jersey, you should seek the advice of a DWI lawyer right away. Call the experienced DWI defense attorneys at Villani & DeLuca, P.C. in Point Pleasant Beach for a FREE consultation today!