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NJ Defenses to DWI

Posted by attorney Joshua Reinitz

If you've been arrested and charged with DWI in New Jersey you've probably heard more than once that you should just plead guilty because there is no way to beat a DWI. While pleading guilty at a certain point may be in your best interest it is foolish to do so without exploring all of your potential defenses. This guide will go through some of the defenses available to a person charged with DWI in New Jersey.

To prove a DWI in New Jersey the State carries the entire burden. The State must establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the person charged was operating a motor vehicle, was under the influence of an intoxicating liquor or a narcotic, hallucenogenic or habit forming drug and that the substance adversely affected the operators ability to drive the vehicle. What is important to note is that each element of the violation must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

Operation - The State must prove operation beyond a reasonable doubt. This means they must prove that you were the person driving the vehicle. Often this is obvious especially if you are stopped for a motor vehicle violation, however, there are plenty of circumstances where the issue of operation is in play especially if you are found in a parked car. .

Reason for contact with the police - The first question you should ask if operation is clear is why did I come in contact with Police? The vast majority of times this occurs as a result of a traffic stop where the officer claims to have observed a motor vehicle stop. Police have a right to stop a vehicle if they observe a violation. Often times this is a hotly contested issue in DWI cases. If you can establish that the police lacked the requisite reasonable suspicion to stop the vehilcle it will lead to supression of the stop and any evidence obtained due to the stop including the results of all subsequent tests and usually the dismissal of the entire case.

Probable Cause because of Observations - The next defense ito consider is whether probable cause existed to arrest. Often this is established by observations. Observations include the physical appearance and mannerisms you present to the police. Often there are alternate explanations for why your eyes are bloodshot or you appear tired late at night than being under the influence and these can be brought out on cross examination.

Field Sobriety Tests - Observations also include the motorists performance on field sobriety tests. Studies have shown that the field sobriety tests are very accurate in predicting which motorists are intoxicated beyond the legal limit. This correlation is only accurate when the tests are properly explained, conducted and scored. A thorough, experienced attorney can find flaws in the way the field sobriety tests are conducted often leading to a dismissal of charges.

20 Minute Defense - The State must affirmatively prove that a qualified witness fully observed the defendant for a full 20 minutes prior to the taking of the Alcotest. This is to ensure that the defendant does not belch or regurgitate causing alcohol to be present int he mouth which would cause an inaccurate result by the Alcotest.

The Machine - The machine must both be in proper working order and must be operated properly for the readings to be considered valid. The machine is not perfect, like any other computer it is subject to a whole host of errors. These errors will be apparent after a thorough review of discovery. Errors in operation of the machine are also fatal to the State's case. The operator must follow the precise procedures for the machine otherwise the reading is not valid.

These are just a sampling of the defenses available to a defendant in a DWI case. Within each category of defense there are a variety of individual defenses. DWI law is an ever changing field and with more challenges to the Alcotest coming on seemingly a weekly basis more defenses will appear.

DWI defenses exist in New Jersey, you just need to know where to look.

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