If you have been charged with driving under the influence (DUI) in New Jersey, you need to fight your charge by all means available. While DUI is considered a traffic offense instead of a crime, a guilty verdict can still mean jail time—in addition to fines, loss of driving privileges and various other DUI penalties.
To determine what defenses you can use to fight your New Jersey DUI charge, it will be necessary to examine the facts surrounding your arrest thoroughly. The following are 10 examples of facts that could directly impact the outcome of your DUI case.
1. Why Did the Arresting Officer Pull You Over?
To lawfully conduct a DUI traffic stop in New Jersey, the police must have “reasonable suspicion” that the person they are stopping is driving under the influence. If the police did not have reasonable suspicion – for example, if they pulled you over because of your race or sex – then any evidence obtained after your traffic stop may be legally inadmissible in court. Without admissible evidence, the prosecutor’s office will not be able to convict you.
2. What Were You Doing When You Got Pulled Over?
Even if the police had reasonable suspicion, this does not necessarily mean that their suspicion was correct. Did you drift out of your lane because you were distracted or fatigued? Did you jerk the steering wheel when you looked at something over your shoulder? There are many possible explanations for erratic driving behavior, and the prosecution must be able to prove that you were driving drunk beyond a reasonable doubt.
3. Did the Arresting Officer Properly Administer Your Breath Test?
Under New Jersey’s “implied consent” law, you are required to submit to a breath test when you are lawfully stopped on suspicion of driving under the influence. However, for your breath test results to be admissible in court, the arresting officer must properly administer the test. From failing to fully explain your rights to failing to accurately describe how you are supposed to blow, there are various mistakes that can render DUI breath test results unreliable.
4. Was the Breathalyzer Device Properly Calibrated?
Another issue that can render breath test results unreliable is the improper calibration of the breathalyzer device. These devices must be calibrated regularly to ensure that they produce accurate readings, and the calibration process involves several steps that can be (and often are) performed incorrectly. If the breathalyzer device used to record your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was not properly calibrated, this could provide a defense to your DUI charge as well.
5. Did the Arresting Officer Properly Administer the Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs)?
While you are required to take a breath test (or blood or urine test) under New Jersey’s “implied consent” law, you are not required to take the field sobriety tests (FSTs). However, if you take the FSTs, then your performance on these tests can be used against you in court.
Like the breath test, however, for FST results to be reliable, the tests need to be administered properly. If your arresting officer did not follow all of the requisite protocols, then your FST results could also be inadmissible in court.
6. Did the Arresting Officer Have Probable Cause to Charge You with DUI?
In addition to establishing “reasonable suspicion” for a DUI traffic stop, the police must establish “probable cause” for a DUI arrest. Probable cause is a higher standard than reasonable suspicion, and not all forms of evidence will suffice to establish probable cause on their own. If you were arrested for DUI without probable cause, then you may be entitled to have any evidence obtained after your arrest withheld (or “suppressed”) from your DUI case.
7. Had You Consumed Certain Foods or Medications Before Your Traffic Stop?
While consuming alcohol can increase your BAC, so can consuming certain types of foods and medications. For example, recent consumption of chocolate, breath mints, tea or cough medicine can result in a “false positive” on the breathalyzer. If there is an alternate explanation for your BAC being above the legal limit, your New Jersey DUI lawyer may be able to use this to protect you against a guilty verdict in court.
8. Were You “Operating” a Motor Vehicle?
Under New Jersey’s DUI statute, in order to face a conviction, you must be guilty of, “operat[ing] a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor.” If you were not “operating” your vehicle (i.e., if you were sitting in a parking lot or pulled over on the side of the road), then you are not guilty of DUI.
9. Did the Police or Prosecutors Mishandle Your Breath Sample (or Other Evidence)?
For breath samples and other forms of evidence to be legally admissible, they must be handled appropriately the entire time, from the moment they are obtained to the moment they are presented in court. If there is any chance that your breath sample or other evidence against you may have been tainted, then it should not be used as evidence in your DUI trial.
10. Were You Actually “Under the Influence” of Alcohol?
Even if you had consumed alcohol, this does not necessarily mean that you were “under the influence” at the time of your traffic stop. Did your BAC rise after you got pulled over? Did you admit to drinking only a small amount that was not sufficient to cause impairment? These are just two examples of numerous different factors that could serve as defenses in your New Jersey DUI case.
Discuss Your Case with a New Jersey DUI Lawyer at Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A.
At Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A., we provide experienced defense representation for individuals charged with DUI in New Jersey. If you have been arrested and need to speak with a New Jersey DUI lawyer, we encourage you to call 877-435-6371 or contact us online promptly for a confidential consultation.
Over 20 attorneys at HCK have extensive criminal defense experience as they were former assistant prosecutors and/or police officers for a combined total of over 600 years of law enforcement experience. You can find out more about them on our website, and you can call Managing Partner Ron Helmer on his cell phone at 609 685-0665.