When you get pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving, you have rights under the law. If the police violate your rights during a DUI traffic stop, this violation can serve as a defense at trial—and it may allow you to avoid a conviction entirely.
As a result, when facing a DUI charge in New Jersey, knowing your rights is extremely important. Here are five rights which, if violated during a traffic stop, can provide defenses to DUI charges under New Jersey law.
1. The Right to Be Free From Unreasonable Searches and Seizures
When driving on New Jersey’s roads, you have the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. Among other things, this means that (i) the police cannot stop you without “reasonable suspicion,” and (ii) the police cannot arrest you without “probable cause.” They also cannot search you or your vehicle without a warrant (and without your consent) except in certain limited circumstances.
2. The Right to Be Read Your Rights Under New Jersey’s Implied Consent Law
Under New Jersey’s implied consent law, all drivers are legally required to submit to blood alcohol concentration (BAC) testing during a DUI traffic stop. But first, the police must read you your rights. If the arresting officer fails to read your rights under New Jersey’s implied consent law, this can serve as a defense to both a DUI and a DUI refusal.
3. The Right to Be Read Your Miranda Rights
Before questioning you while in custody, the police are required to read your Miranda rights. If the police did so without reading your Miranda rights – and if you confessed to driving under the influence during questioning – the failure to read your rights could provide grounds to have your confession suppressed.
4. The Right to Refuse to Take Field Sobriety Tests
New Jersey’s implied consent law requires drivers to submit to BAC tests during DUI traffic stops. It does not require drivers to submit to the field sobriety tests. If you refused to take the field sobriety tests during your DUI traffic stop, the prosecution cannot use this against you in court.
5. The Right to Remain Silent
During a DUI traffic stop, you have the right to remain silent. While you must identify yourself, you are not required to answer any questions or provide any information that prosecutors may be able to use to prove that you were driving under the influence.
Your Legal Rights During a Traffic Stop in New Jersey
During a traffic stop in New Jersey, your legal rights include:
- Freedom from Discrimination – The police cannot pull you over, question you, request that you exit your car or arrest you on any discriminatory basis (race, color, nationality, age, sex, gender or sexual orientation). Even if police are mistaken or violate your rights, you have no right to refuse to submit to or resist arrest. This is so even if the police are mistaken about who you are or that there is a warrant for your arrest. You have legal rights and actions for those violations of your rights.
- Freedom from Harassment – You have the right to be free from harassment during a traffic stop in New Jersey. While the police can search your vehicle and order you to exit your vehicle under appropriate circumstances, they cannot do so to harass you.
- Refusal to Answer – You have the right to refuse to answer any questions pertaining to what you were doing or where you were going before you got stopped. During a traffic stop, you only need to provide your basic identifying information (i.e., name and address).
- Refusal to Consent to a Search – You are not required to consent to a search of your vehicle during a traffic stop in New Jersey. If you refuse to consent to a search, the police can only conduct a search if they have “reasonable articulable suspicion” of illegal activity.
- Legal Representation Upon Arrest – If you get arrested during your traffic stop, you have the immediate right to legal representation. This is true whether or not the arresting officer reads your rights.
Your Legal Obligations During a Traffic Stop in New Jersey
During a traffic stop in New Jersey, your legal obligations include:
- License, Insurance and Registration – You must provide your license, proof of insurance and vehicle registration upon request. You should always have your license with you, and you should always keep your insurance card and registration in your vehicle.
- Identification – If asked, you must identify yourself to the police officer who pulled you over.
- Exit the Vehicle Upon Request – You must exit your vehicle if requested to do so. This applies whether you are the driver or a passenger.
- Pat Down Upon Request – You must allow the officer to pat you down, but only if the officer has reason to believe that you are armed and dangerous.
- Breath Test Upon Request – If the officer who pulled you over suspects that you may have been drinking, he or she may request that you take a breath test. You are legally required to comply with this request under New Jersey’s implied consent law.
- Submit to even an illegal arrest upon request.
Charged with DUI in New Jersey? Discuss Your Case with an Experienced DUI Lawyer
Are you facing a New Jersey DUI charge? If so, you should talk to a lawyer promptly to find out what defenses you can use to protect yourself. To schedule a confidential consultation with a New Jersey DUI lawyer at Helmer, Conley & Kasselman P.A., call 877-435-6371 or tell us how we can reach you online now.
Over 20 attorneys at HCK have extensive experience in defending DUI cases 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 site, and you can call Managing Partner Ron Helmer on his cell phone at 609 685-0665.