WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT DWI
FIRST ENCOUNTER: THE POLICE STOP AND SOBRIETY TEST
A cop pulls you over and smells alcohol on your breath. A cop pulls you over and detects the odor of burnt marijuana. A cop pulls you over and notices you’re fumbling and slurring your speech. Every DWI begins with the dreaded police stop.
Be polite. Be cooperative. Being rude or confrontational with a police officer will always get you into more trouble, and may even close the door on defenses that a skilled attorney could otherwise raise in your favor.
An attorney can question an officer’s conduct during a stop. An attorney can call attention to rights that were not explained and procedures that were not followed. An attorney can even challenge the results of a field sobriety test.
An attonrey can NOT argue the results of a test you refused to take.
Refusing to cooperate during a sobriety test can lead to additional charges beyond the DWI itself. And puts you in a worse spot than if you had simply taken the test and failed.
A DWI arrest can be a scary experience. For most it will be their first time in handcuffs, first time riding in the back of a squad car, and first time being booked at a police station. For most, it should also be the last.
Don’t do anything to make a bad night worse. Remain calm, tell the police you’d like to speak to an attorney, and contact a lawyer ASAP.
MAKING THE CASE: THE STATE’S BURDEN OF PROOF
You failed a field sobriety test. You were arrested and booked. You spent a very unpleasant night sobering up in a holding cell.
You aren’t guilty of DWI until the state proves that you’re guilty of DWI. A failed sobriety test and the testimony of an arresting officer is not enough proof to get a conviction. The state must produce forensic evidence showing that a prohibited substance was in your system at the time you were operating your vehicle, AND prove that standard procedure was at all times followed in obtaining and handling the evidence.
For example: a breathalyzer test is not valid evidence unless the police officer who administered the test is certified to operate a breathalyzer, the breathalyzer was properly calibrated, and the state produces repair records establishing that the device was in proper working order. Breathalyzer results cannot be used against you if the state cannot prove that the test was properly administered by a qualified operator with a working device.
Blood and urine tests that demonstrate a drug was in your system but cannot establish how recently you took the drug or if you were under the influence at the time you were operating your vehicle likewise cannot prove that you are guilty of DWI.
An experienced DWI attorney will be as familiar as any police officer with the tests used to determine when drivers are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and will be able to identify any way that the tests were administered incorrectly.
This is where experience matters, and you want to make sure the attorney you pick to handle your DWI is an attorney who knows the field. The attorney who represented you in your divorce and drafted your will may be very good at what he does, but may have never read a single police report!
LAWYER UP: GETTING THE RIGHT ATTORNEY TO FIGHT FOR YOUR RIGHTS
If you have a DWI, you want an attorney who handles DWI.
You also want an attorney who is affordable, accessible, and will give your case the time and attention it deserves. The price of experience should never be an attorney who is always too busy to take your call, or an attorney who nickel-and-dimes you for every minute!
DeMarco and Associates prides itself on its client-focused approach to law. In 25+ years of practice, we have built a reputation of providing good service at a reasonable rate.
Driving While Suspended for DWI: A Whole New Ballgame
If you’ve ever been pulled over for driving with a suspended license you probably know this trick: try and postpone the court hearing until you can get your license restored. Present your restored drivers license to the court, get the driving while suspended charge dismissed, and plead down to a lesser charge.
The state of New Jersey also knows this. And if you’ve been suspended for DWI, the state doesn’t think it should be that easy.
New Jersey recently passed NJSA 2C:40-26 establishing driving while suspended FOR A DWI as a separate offense that can cannot be pled down by getting reinstated.
More severely, for repeat violations, driving while suspended for a DWI becomes a Fourth Degree Crime punishable by a mandatory 180 days in jail after only the second offense.
If you’ve been convicted of DWI and lost your driving privileges: STAY OFF THE ROAD!!! New Jersey takes this very seriously, and is cracking down!