Common Myths About DUI in New Jersey You Thought Were True
Ever go out for dinner and decide to have a drink or two, before getting into your car to drive yourself back home? It happens to the best of us. When you see those flashing lights in your rearview, you get a knot in the pit of your stomach and reassess. You assure yourself you have nothing to worry about because you don’t even feel that buzz anymore and you just had three drinks after all. Next thing you know, you’re in the back of a police car.
I refused the breathalyzer. Therefore, the police have no evidence against me.
Unfortunately, that is untrue and does not mean you are safe from being charged with DUI.
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.
So not only does the officer have a variety of other ways to establish that you are intoxicated, but you still be penalized simply for refusing a chemical test.
- There are other means by which an officer can establish cause to arrest you for DUI if you refuse a breathalyzer.
- Refusing chemical tests can arouse suspicion, and refusal alone carries its own set of penalties imposed by the DMV.
I was pulled over because I was suspected of having been intoxicated. I smoked marijuana in my car several days ago but am sober now. So, I am safe.
Often, this begins with a police officer observing somebody driving erratically, carelessly, or recklessly. Sometimes, this could warrant a speeding ticket, which does not suggest intoxication or being impaired. After all, many people get traffic summonses without being charged with DUI. However, if at this time your clothes or car still smell like marijuana, you have given the officer probable cause to investigate further.
When we’re discussing marijuana, as an example, police officers will make certain observations that lead them to believe the person is under the influence of marijuana. The motorist might even admit to having smoked marijuana. An odor of marijuana could emanate off the person’s breath or off the person’s clothes. An odor of marijuana could be emanating from inside of the vehicle, which is another indicator that someone has recently consumed marijuana by smoking it.
The police will ask the individual to provide a urine sample, and the forensic lab of the New Jersey state police will test that urine sample. It is important to bear in mind that marijuana remains in your system for extended periods of time, days, or even months after you last smoked. Because of this, you will likely be charged, but because of the very same reason, your lawyer will be able to come up with a strong defense by claiming you were not under the influence at the time you were driving.
I was intoxicated so I pulled over to the side of the road to wait it off. That was a responsible thing to do so I should be safe.
You couldn’t be further from the truth.
Here, we find the issue or concept of operation. This is something the state will try to prove. Because you’ve pulled over to the side of the road, it becomes an issue in any DUI case.
This is not an open and shut case to the advantage of the motorist because of many issues. The most pertinent questions that arise are these:
- How did the motorist get to that location?
- Was he intoxicated when he started driving to that location?
- Did somebody else drop him off?
- Did he drive to that location sober and drink in the car?
- What information did the motorist give to the police officer?
You must remember that operating a motor vehicle for any length of time while intoxicated is illegal. So, if you were already intoxicated when you started driving, you’re in trouble. If you started drinking after you got to the location, you might still require a lawyer. The issue of operation is a legal term that the statute and the law take into account. It is usually analyzed on an individual case-specific basis.
- If you were intoxicated when you started driving to the location, or if you started drinking after you reached the location, you are going to need a good DUI lawyer.
- This is because operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, irrespective of how short a distance the driver drove, is illegal.
My medications were prescribed. So, I will not be charged with DUI.
This is not true.
The idea behind prescription medication is that you have to take it responsibly. Warnings are listed on them that should be taken seriously, because if impairment is due to the prescription medicine, a person can be successfully prosecuted. In a DUI, you may be charged with being under the influence for substances other than alcohol. You can be prosecuted and even found guilty of being impaired by prescription medication. Follow the instructions on the packaging of your medication. If it says you should not drive after taking it, don’t.
- What you are under the influence is immaterial. That you are under the influence will get you a DUI charge.
I only had 3 drinks. I even have the receipt from the place where I bought the drinks.
This is a fallacious assumption.
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. I don’t think the amount of drinks an individual had is a good parameter for an ultimate resolution as to whether somebody is intoxicated or not, legally speaking.
- All that matters to the officer and before the eyes of the law is your BAC. Not your receipt from the restaurant/bar.
I wasn’t read my Miranda rights. My case will be dismissed.
After you have been arrested, the police are supposed to read you your Miranda rights. The police are supposed to read the defendant their Miranda rights before the interrogation can begin. Some interrogation questions might pertain to where you were, how much you drank, what you drank, how many drinks you consumed over the last few hours, and if you are taking any prescription medication.
Questions like these after your arrest become subject to the Miranda rules, not the questions that they would ask you when they first pull you over. If they do arrest you and then start to interrogate you and they didn’t read you your Miranda rights, there could be an issue. If you’ve been under arrest, the answers to those questions is subject to a hearing. At a hearing, it will be determined if those statements can be suppressed and not be able to be used against you at a trial and where a judge would decide that your rights were violated or not.
However, your case won’t be dismissed because they didn’t read it to you.
- Your statements can be suppressed, but your case will not be dismissed.