DEFENDING CASES INVOLVING CHARGES OF DRIVING WHILE INTOXICATED OR UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF ALCOHOL OR DRUGS
The defense of cases involving charges of intoxicated driving begins with a thorough client interview An attorney must know the medical and psychological history of the client, family history, education, and employment history before even discussing the events leading to the arrest. Every aspect of the accused person’s background is extremely important in evaluating the evidence. Integrating the client’s history with the law relating to the offense present client and attorney with the right information to make crucial tactical decisions necessary to a successful defense.
Recent enactments of the Legislature of New Jersey led the Governor to sign into law a revision of the statute making it a serious offense to drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs. In New Jersey driving under the influence is a major traffic offense. However, in other states, for example Pennsylvania, New York and Delaware, it is a criminal offense which can have a damaging effect on a person’s education, career, or future through the entry onto the person’s criminal record, or rap sheet. For this reason all drivers who receive a charge of driving while intoxicated must consult with a criminal trial attorney.
New Jersey law makes it an offense to refuse to submit to a breath test. However, there is no penalty for refusing to supply blood or urine, or to refuse to answer questions about one’s health. It is extremely important to remember the Fifth Amendment of the Constitutions of the United States and New Jersey. An accused does not have to answer questions other than “booking” questions such as the person’s address, date of birth, etc. Anything a person says about the case will surely be used against his or her interest. Just ask for a lawyer and questioning will stop!
The penalties when one is convicted of drunk driving includes a loss of license, mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device, fines and an insurance surcharge of $3,000.00. Also upon conviction a person must submit to the Intoxicated Driver Resource Center for mandatory education for at least two days of sessions, or in-patient treatment over twelve to sixteen weeks.
In order to have one’s privilege to drive either in New Jersey or an out-of-state violator’s home state all of the consequences must be satisfied. This is particularly important with respect to the ignition interlock. A failure to comply can lead to jail.
The newly enacted drunk driving law sets penalties based upon the breath test result or proof that the driver was under the influence of drugs. Therefore, it is extremely important to retain a qualified criminal defense attorney to review the case, discuss the options and successfully defend the case.
There are three basic components to a proper defense. First, the attorney must investigate to determine whether there was probable cause to justify the stop and seizure of the defendant. This is known as probable cause or reasonable suspicion that an offense occurred. When challenged by defense counsel, the State must provide that the officer had justification to stop the car. Otherwise, the entire case may be dismissed.
The next element of proof of operation of the motor vehicle by the defendant. The officer must have sufficient recall to identify the person charged and prove that the person was actually driving the vehicle. Sometimes this can present an extremely interesting defense when an accused is outside of the car, or sleeping in a parked car. If operation cannot be proved beyond a reasonable doubt at a time when the driver was intoxicated, the case may be dismissed.
The most critical issue in the State’s case is proof of intoxication at the time of operation. In order to convict, the State must prove either that the accused was under the influence of alcohol or drugs when he or she operated a motor vehicle, or that there was the prohibited level of alcohol in the accused’s blood or breath.
A second line of defense is a challenge to the officers’ s observations of signs of intoxication. As an example, an arresting officer might testify that an accused could not walk a straight line, or properly recite the alphabet or that an accused appeared disoriented. Thorough preparation beginning with the client interview and meetings to review the police reports can lead to a successful challenge of the physical signs of intoxication.
The introduction of a blood or breath test invariably requires a defense attorney to fight back with expert testimony. In order to defeat a chemical test, a forensic scientist or qualified Breathalyzer expert must review the discovery, the client’s medical and personal history and develop a strategy with counsel to challenge a breathalyzer test or blood test.
Many cases of drunk driving and crimes involving intoxication can be successfully challenged through thorough careful preparation and the use of experts.