Different Strategies for Challenging a DWI in New Jersey
Summary: Many motorists are unaware of the wide variety of methods that people use to challenge DWIs in New Jersey. Some of these strategies are general tips, and others are specific mandates that could benefit drivers. There are ways to challenge a DWI in New Jersey.
With help from the right defense lawyer, drivers may be able to find a number of ways to challenge a DWI in the state of New Jersey. Since 2008, the conviction rate for DWI charges in New Jersey has declined from 85 percent to 71 percent. Within that time frame, the rate of DWI cases dismissed has doubled to around 24 percent. Often, lawyers help motorists in these cases plea down to lesser charges like reckless driving.
If police used an illegal stop to pull you over, any of the evidence they collect thereafter may be considered inadmissible in court. A police officer in New Jersey cannot stop a vehicle without articulating a reasonable basis for believing that a law has been violated. The stop may be warranted if the officer explains how the motor vehicle was being operated in an unusual or erratic manner.
Officers simply cannot pull a motorist over after watching them exit a bar, enter their vehicle, and drive off. If the officers are unable to justify the decision for the stop or the motorist’s constitutional rights are violated in any way, a competent defense lawyer may be able to get the DWI charges dismissed.
Unreliable Field Sobriety Tests
Standardized and nonstandard field sobriety tests often produce unreliable evidence of intoxication. The walk-and-turn and one-leg stand tests are both less than 70 percent accurate at predicting when a healthy person is over the BAC legal limit of 0.08 percent. For people who are at least 50 pounds overweight, age 65 or older or suffering with injuries, the field sobriety tests are unreliable. In courts in New Jersey, the eye test cannot be used as proof of driving while intoxicated.
In New Jersey, if the breath test operator is not licensed, the breath test is considered inadmissible in court. If the license is expired, the breath test result is also considered admissible in court. If the breathalyzer has malfunctioned or been repaired recently, the results may be inaccurate. Prosecutors need to prove that all the proper procedures were followed in order to have the test results admitted as evidence.
If the specific protocols weren’t done to ensure proper readings, the test results might be excluded from court. Interfering substances can also contribute to false positive results for chemical breath tests. Some of the substances that can corrupt the test results include fingernail polish, paints, cough drops, and asthma spray.
Failure to Conduct an Observation Period
According to state law, officers must observe a motorist for at least 20 minutes before administering chemical breath testing. During this time of observation, officers are required to look for signs of vomiting or belching. If officers do not follow this 20-minute rule, the results of the breath test may be excluded from court.
Inaccurate Test Results
Whether or not blood testing for a DWI is admissible in court depends on the procedures followed in collecting the sample. Officers sometimes fail to follow the proper protocols associated with preservation, analysis, and testing. Even the medical facilities that receive the samples fail to follow proper protocols as well. A small trace of alcohol on a nonalcoholic swab may be enough for a defense lawyer to get a motion to exclude in a DWI court case.
Researchers have found that hospitals overestimate 25 percent of the blood samples collected from healthy people and that these medical facilities have also proven to be unreliable when testing people with severe injuries. Medical staff members using lactate ringers to treat patients are more likely have blood serum test results with elevated readings. Medical or health conditions could be a contributing factor in false positives for drivers subjected to a DWI breath or blood test.
If you’re interested in challenging a DWI in the Garden State, contact DWI attorney Denis Driscoll and learn more about which legal strategies may be right for you.