Statistics show that drunk driving accidents increase during the holiday season. For example, Thanksgiving is particularly dangerous, with fatal accident rates more than five percent above the holiday average.
In light of these statistics, the police ramp up their DUI enforcement efforts during the holidays. New Jersey’s “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign starts at the end of summer and runs until January 1. The campaign involves an increased police presence on the roads, particularly when drivers are most likely to be impaired, as well as additional checkpoints statewide. According to NJ.com, New Jersey police departments made 1,380 DUI arrests during the “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign in 2019.
Drunk Driving is Dangerous Driving
Not only are drunk drivers more likely to cause accidents, but accidents involving drunk drivers are more likely to result in severe or fatal injuries. When drivers are alcohol-impaired, their ability to make smart decisions goes down while their reaction time goes up, and this dangerous combination puts all motorists in their vicinity at serious risk. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA):
“Approximately one-third of all traffic crash fatalities in the United States involve drunk drivers (with BACs of .08 g/dL or higher). . . . [O]n average over the 10-year period from 2010-2019, more than 10,000 people died every year in drunk-driving crashes.”
Despite their prevalence, drunk driving crashes are preventable. Notably, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identify active enforcement of DUI laws and the use of sobriety checkpoints as key ways of preventing serious and fatal DUI accidents. That being the case, no one wants to get pulled over for drunk driving, and no one wants to face the life-changing consequences of a DUI conviction. Enhancing police presence when more drunk drivers are likely to be on the roads (i.e., during the holiday season) saves lives—both by deterring would-be drunk drivers and by ensuring that drunk drivers don’t have a chance to cause a life-altering or life-threatening collision.
Not Everyone Who Gets Pulled Over (or Arrested) Is Guilty of DUI
While there is no excuse for drunk driving – during the holidays or any other time of year – not everyone who gets pulled over (or gets arrested) is guilty of DUI. For individuals who get arrested during the holiday season in New Jersey, this is extremely important to keep in mind. It is possible to successfully defend against DUI charges in many cases, and no one deserves to face the consequences of a conviction if they are not guilty under the law.
With this in mind, here are five important facts to know if you get pulled over for DUI in New Jersey during the holiday season:
1. The Police Must Have “Reasonable Suspicion” to Make a Traffic Stop
Under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (as applied to the states under the Fourteenth Amendment), the police cannot perform a traffic stop unless they have “reasonable suspicion” that a crime or traffic violation has been committed. This means that the police cannot pull you over based on your race, color, ethnicity, sex or gender. However, if the police pull you over for running a stop sign or having a broken taillight, they can still arrest you for DUI if they discover that you are drunk behind the wheel.
2. The Police Can (and Must) Randomly Stop Drivers at DUI Checkpoints
While the police need reasonable suspicion to conduct a traffic stop, they can (and must) randomly stop drivers at DUI checkpoints. Unless you appear to be drunk or otherwise in violation of the law, the police can only ask you to stop based on a mathematical pattern.
3. You Are Required to Take the Breathalyzer, But the Results Aren’t Always Accurate
New Jersey has an “implied consent” law, and this means that you are generally required to take the breathalyzer when asked to do so during a DUI stop. If you refuse the breathalyzer, you can face prosecution for an implied consent violation regardless of whether you were driving drunk. We should note that refusing to take the test makes your situation worse, as it is much easier for an experienced New Jersey DUI lawyer to have the results of the test thrown out than it is to win a refusal case, and the consequences of a refusal conviction are typically worse than a DUI conviction.
Crucially, however, breathalyzer results are not always accurate. In fact, several issues can lead to a faulty blood alcohol concentration (BAC) reading. If your BAC reading is unreliable, then the prosecutor’s office shouldn’t be able to use it against you in court.
4. You Are Not Required to Take the Field Sobriety Tests (and the Results Aren’t Always Accurate)
Unlike the breathalyzer, you are not required to take the field sobriety tests (FSTs) during a DUI stop. However, like the breathalyzer, the FSTs are not always reliable. From an uneven walking surface to the arresting officer’s flawed interpretation of your performance, there are several issues that can lead to unreliable FST results.
5. The Consequences of a DUI Conviction in New Jersey Can Be Severe
Regardless of the circumstances surrounding your DUI arrest, you should never assume that you will be found “not guilty.” The consequences of a DUI conviction in New Jersey can be severe; and, if you do not defend yourself, you could face these consequences even if they are unwarranted. Potential penalties include fines, surcharges, loss of driving privileges and possible jail time (among other consequences) for a first-time offense—and the penalties increase substantially if you are being charged as a repeat offender.
What Should You Do if You Get Arrested for DUI in New Jersey During the Holidays?
With all of this in mind, what should you do if you get arrested for DUI in New Jersey during the holidays? The best thing you can do is contact a lawyer promptly. The police, prosecutors and judges in New Jersey all take DUI cases very seriously, and they will not go easy on you because it is the holiday season.
Get Help From a New Jersey DUI Lawyer
If you have been charged with DUI in New Jersey, you need to speak with a New Jersey DUI lawyer right away. Request a confidential consultation online today.