Before you are prosecuted of a DWI charge in New Jersey, there are a number of elements that must be proven first. It is a criminal defense attorney's job to disprove these elements in your case in a trial. To successfully do so, legal professionals assert defenses to either prove your innocence, prove that you didn't commit this crime per se, or prove that your sentence should be reduced. The applicability of certain defenses, however, depends on the factors of your case.
If you've been charged with a DWI, I can't stress the importance of seeking an experienced and skilled attorney enough. The right legal representation can make all the difference in the outcome of your case. Mr. Joseph Lento at the Lento Law Firm has helped people like you get justice. Don't hesitate to contact our firm today.
For the purposes of this article, we'll highlight a few affirmative defenses that could potentially be applied to your case by your attorney:
You were not driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
This is one of the most solid defenses that can be presented in your case since the essence of a DWI is driving impaired by drugs or alcohol. When law enforcement pulls over someone on suspicion of driving under the influence, they will immediately start looking for signs of intoxication or otherwise impairment. A few of the most obvious indicators of impairment would be bloodshot red eyes, slurred speech, a flushed face, or the smell of alcohol or drugs in the vehicle. Officers also pay close attention to your demeanor during an interaction. Although an encounter with the police is nerve-wracking in general, police will attempt to pick up on behavior that may point to guilt.
The issue with perception is that it isn't always right. Just because an officer suspects that a person may be impaired, doesn't mean that this suspicion is right. Bloodshot eyes could be caused by allergies, and a nervous reaction to a stop doesn't necessarily indicate guilt. An officer's biases or false assumption could lead him or her to administer an unwarranted DWI investigation.
An officer did not have a legitimate reason to stop you
It is unconstitutional for a police officer to pull over a motorist on suspicion of driving impaired without probable cause. Probable cause isn't supposed to be based on suspicion but rooted in factual evidence. It refers to facts that would make any reasonable individual believe that a crime has been committed, is being committed, or will be committed. Therefore, in a police report, an officer has the duty to provide a legitimate and factual reason for pulling someone over. Unfortunately, this isn't always the case. Instances of profiling and other discriminatory practices happen far too frequently. Officers have been known to target motorists based on race, gender, or perceived behavior. If it is proven by a defense attorney that an officer didn't have the right to pull a defendant over, the evidence that he or she obtained during a stop will not be admissible in court, and the case will be thrown out.
You were not technically “operating” the vehicle
According to New Jersey statutes, the “operation” of a vehicle is an element that must be present in a case to prosecute a DWI. But the law doesn't specifically address what the operation of vehicle truly entails. Some people are lawfully arrested for a DWI while parked and not in motion. But what I've discovered is that a conviction oftentimes boils down to whether or not a motorist has driven a vehicle or intended to drive a vehicle while impaired. To determine if this defense can be asserted in a defendant's defense, small details like a running engine, the placement of the car key, or if the defendant was wearing a seatbelt or not become important.
You were not on a public roadway or parking lot
A DWI can only be prosecuted if was in a location that is open to the public or on a public roadway upon the arrest. If it can be proven that a vehicle was on private property when an officer discovered the defendant, the charges may be dismissed.
The roadside checkpoint did not meet state guidelines (for arrests that happened during a checkpoint)
In order for a DUI arrest within a roadside checkpoint to be considered legal, law enforcement must follow specific regulations. If the checkpoint isn't conducted according to protocol, a defendant's DWI case may be thrown out. Here are some of the guidelines New Jersey authorities are required to follow:
- The checkpoint must be clearly visible: checkpoints should be easily identifiable. This way, all drivers are given time to stop or slow down to a safe speed.
- All cars must have the same standard and reason for being stopped: Law enforcement should have an established pattern or numerical system to stop drivers to prevent profiling.
- The stop must be brief unless an officer has reasonable suspicion: A stop at a roadside checkpoint should only last a few minutes unless an officer finds a reason to further investigate.
New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorney
A DWI charge in New Jersey requires the assistance of a legal professional. A seasoned and skilled legal professional can help you decide which defense is most suitable for your case.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has the experience and credentials to defend and counsel people who've acquired DWI charges. He will explain your pending charges, build a solid defense and work towards getting your charges reduced or dropped. For more information about Mr. Lento's representation, contact the Lento Law Firm either online or by phone at 888-535-3686.