3 Common DUI Misconceptions in New Jersey
You Can’t Always Believe What You Hear
1. Refusing a Breathalyzer Means There Is No Evidence Against You
The law in New Jersey breaks DUIs down into a couple of different theories for the state or for the prosecutor. If you take a breathalyzer exam or an Intoxilyzer, these are both chemical tests. If they draw blood from you, this is a chemical test. If you give them a urine sample, this is also a chemical test.
If you don’t supply them with any of those chemical tests, the state still has the opportunity to attempt to prosecute you with the common law or observation DUI. In this case, the police officer testifies about your basic condition and comments on how you were operating the motor vehicle.
The police officers will generally comment about whether or not you were driving erratically, carelessly, or recklessly. Very often they need to establish elements called observations. These observations include bloodshot and watery eyes, odor of alcohol, or unsteady feet. Therefore, admitting to drinking is not necessarily an observation. However, it is a statement against your own interest.
Furthermore, the police would then do a battery of standard field sobriety tests, all approved by the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration. The first one, called HGN, is an eye test during which they ask you to follow a finger or a stimulus, and they watch whether your eyes are shaky or have nystagmus to them.
The second test is a Walk and Turn test, during which you have to walk a line of nine steps, pivot and then walk nine steps back, all heel to toe, while watching your feet and counting out loud.
The third standard field sobriety test is called One Leg Stand, during which you must lift one foot off the ground 6 inches and count “one-one thousand, two-one thousand” until the officer tells you to stop. Essentially, they’re trying to estimate 30 seconds.
The officers will take those tests, break them down, and ultimately give their opinions. While the HGN test can’t be used to prove that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, only for probable cause, the other two tests can be used to prove an observation case.
The other issue with a refusal is that you’ll receive a separate summons for refusal, which can and should be challenged. It does carry its own penalties, which include suspensions of driving privileges and, if you’re licensed in the state, suspension of your driving license. While refusals may have certain advantages, they certainly have some disadvantages.
- In the event a driver refuses a breathalyzer test, there are other tests police officers can use to measure and determine intoxication.
- Refusal to submit to a breathalyzer test is subject to a different set of penalties.
2. Failure to Read Miranda Rights Results in Dismissal of Case
The Miranda Rights are important for anybody who is being arrested or has been placed in custody. Once you’re in custody, and the police want to interrogate you, their obligation is to inform you of your Miranda Rights.
Many examples of such cases exist. The police officers make a valid arrest, but they don’t read your Miranda Rights. It’s still a valid arrest because they never had an opportunity to ask questions that might incriminate the individual. Therefore, the Miranda Rights don’t become relevant to the prosecution.
For example, if the police pulled you over and they asked you if you’ve been drinking, you’re not under arrest yet. Therefore, those questions are valid and those answers are admissible. But let’s say after you answer those questions, you’re taken out of the car and asked to do field sobriety tests, and then they decide to arrest you. This triggers your right to having the Miranda Rights read to you.
If they don’t read you your Miranda Rights, this doesn’t create an automatic flaw in your case. The Miranda Rights really pertain to the admissibility of statements against you, not necessarily any other evidence against you.
If the police officer does arrest you legally, does not read you your Miranda Rights, and then starts questioning you while in custody or when you get back to the police department, saying things like, “How many drinks did you have? How much food did you eat? What time did you start drinking? What type of alcohol did you drink? What period of time past between each drink?” then these statements are subject to a suppression.
This means that these questions and answers are subject to be excluded from evidence at a trial. This suppression hearing would be done in front of the judge. The judge would decide whether or not that evidence could be introduced against the individual at the trial. However, the mere fact that this happened does not invalidate an arrest.
- A police officer does not need to read you your Miranda rights when he/she questions you after having pulled you over.
- If you were not read your Miranda rights following a valid arrest, what you may have said will not be admissible in court.
3. Less Than 3 Drinks Is Under the Legal Limit
You can find blood alcohol content calculators out on the Internet. Some handheld ones are available that people use, as well.
However, this doesn’t offer the question of how many drinks you had but how your body metabolizes that alcohol. This pertains to individualized metabolic rates. For someone who is 150 pounds and had three full meals that day before drinking three glasses of wine over three hours, a controlled amount of alcohol with only 4 ounces each, his drunkenness level really depends on his metabolism.
Therefore, someone might be fine with three drinks, and they might be well over the legal limit with three drinks. This depends on metabolism, when those drinks are consumed, and how much alcohol is in those drinks.
A glass of wine at a bar could be 4 ounces, while a glass of wine and at another bar could be 3 ounces. At a third bar, it could be 3 times that, depending on the pour and the bar culture. The number of drinks an individual had is a good parameter for an ultimate resolution as to whether somebody is intoxicated or not, legally speaking.
- BAC is determined by the rate at which your body metabolizes alcohol, and not by the number of drinks consumed.
- Because every individual metabolizes alcohol at varying rates, it is impossible and unwise to estimate BAC based on the number of drinks consumed.
If you or a loved one has been charged with a DUI in the state of New Jersey, it is important to hire the right attorney. Carl Spector has over 30 years of experience representing residents of New Jersey and NYC.