The most important safety precaution to adhere to when operating a motor vehicle is to avoid drinking alcoholic beverages 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. 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.
Step 1: 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, ignoring stop sign, among other reasons. Whatever the reason, the officer needs justification for 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.
- Observes erratic driving and laws or ordinance broken
- Believes the driver is physically unable to operate a vehicle
- 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.
Step 2: 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 the automobile. After the driver pulls to the side of the road, the officer will approach the car and make observations. He interviews by asking questions and requests documentation such as license, registration and proof of insurance while the driver remains inside. 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, he or she will ask the driver to exit the vehicle. Once the driver is out of the car, the officer will conduct field sobriety testing, as described below.
Step 3: Field Sobriety Testing
Before the officer makes an arrest for 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 stand on one foot for a number of seconds, perform the walk and turn test, and observe the driver's eye movements. The driver's balance and reactions are observed during these tests. If the officer's suspicions that the driver was driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs are confirmed by the results of the testing, the officer will 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 732.965.3999 to speak with an experienced DWI defense attorneys at Villani & DeLuca and receive a FREE consultation today!