Motor Vehicle Stops & DWI Investigations in New Jersey
September 10, 2018
Stopped for Suspected DWI in Union County, NJ
Stretching over 105 square miles, Union County, New Jersey is an expansive county that over 536,000 people call home. Encompassing natural preserves and cities alike, the county has over 1,400 miles of roadways, including Route 22, the New Jersey Turnpike (I-95), the Garden State Parkway, Interstates 78 and 287. With major roads and a vast geographic reach, it is not surprising that Union County has thousands of traffic stops every year, many of which result in DWI charges. If you have been stopped by police while driving in Cranford, Berkeley Heights, Clark, Roselle Park, Kenilworth, Linden, Scotch Plains, New Providence, Elizabeth, or another part of Union County, it is essential to know the law regarding traffic stops and what police can do if they suspect you’re driving while intoxicated. For additional information, contact the experienced DWI defense lawyers at Proetta & Oliver. We can be contacted 24/7 online or by phone at (908) 838-0150 to provide you with a free consultation.
Reasonable Suspicion for a DWI Stop
Typically, in order to stop a vehicle in New Jersey, the police must have reasonable suspicion that there has been a violation of the law. Reasonable suspicion means that the police have a particular and objective basis for suspecting that the law has been violated.
Any indication gleaned from observing the behavior of a driver that they may be driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs can form a basis for reasonable suspicion. Some examples of such behavior include speeding, driving very slowly, driving erratically, weaving, failing to use a turn signal, failing to turn on headlights, straddling the center line, stopping the vehicle in the middle of the road, driving the wrong way on a one-way street, or making an illegal turn.
Can police administer a field sobriety test if they stopped me for a different reason?
In New Jersey, while the police must have reasonable suspicion that a law has been violated in order to pull you over, once they do, they may see evidence of an additional violation like driving while intoxicated (DWI). If you are pulled over because your headlight is out and then the police see signs of intoxication, giving them reasonable suspicion that are driving under the influence of alcohol, they may administer a field sobriety test.
In order to arrest you for DWI, the police must have probable cause. This may include the results of field sobriety tests and other observable factors like your behavior or physical indicators such as bloodshot eyes or the smell of alcohol on your breath.
When is reasonable suspicion not required?
One exception to the requirement of reasonable suspicion to stop a motor vehicle in New Jersey is when the police are conducting a DWI checkpoint. As long as certain procedures are followed by law enforcement, DWI checkpoints are permitted in New Jersey. The police must provide the public with advanced notice before setting up a checkpoint and must select a location for the checkpoint based on information they collect regarding prior DWI accidents and arrests. There must also be proper signage leading up to the checkpoint, warning motorists of the sobriety checkpoint ahead.
If the police have set up a DWI checkpoint and they signal for you to stop your vehicle, you must do so. However, if you see a sign stating that there is a DWI checkpoint ahead, you can take an alternate route to avoid the checkpoint, so long as doing so would not violate any traffic laws in the process.
Unlawful Stop as a DWI Defense in NJ
In some cases, an improper stop—that is, a stop which the police did not have reasonable suspicion to make—may be a defense to DWI charges that arise from that stop. For example, if the officer pulled you over without having a justifiable basis, meaning they had no reasonable suspicion and you did not commit a traffic offense, this may be an effective defense strategy to have DWI charges dismissed.
It is important to remember that the potential defense of an improper stop does not apply to DWI checkpoints, which are organized and conducted at random. However, if police did not follow the rules and regulations that apply to sobriety checkpoints in New Jersey, this may be a defense to resulting DUI charges.
Get Legal Help from Experienced Union DWI Lawyers
If you believe you were improperly stopped and later charged with DWI, contact the experienced DWI defense lawyers at our firm today at (908) 838-0150 for a free consultation. With offices in Cranford, we regularly fight DWI charges on behalf of clients in Scotch Plains, Springfield, Summit, Union, Westfield, Plainfield, Rahway, Roselle and other Union County communities.