You were pulled over somewhere in or around Ocean County, forced out of your car “because the officer smelled alcohol emanating from the interior passenger compartment of the vehicle”, stumbled through the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests that include the walk-and-turn, one-leg stand, and horizontal gaze nystagmus (follow the pen light), cuffed, brought to the station, and blew a number above .08%. Now you feel lost, anxious, and the weight of the world is on your shoulders. Does that sound about right?
How to Beat a Toms River DUI
New Jersey DWI charges are no joke. You have Googled enough DUI law to understand that by now. You are terrified to speak with your employer. Your girlfriend has had it up to here. You are researching lawyers and strategizing your next move. Do you pick a local lawyer? Do you find the biggest firm? Does your sister’s friend’s mom’s ex-husband’s cousin know a guy?
Understand a few things.
- Good News – It is possible to beat your DWI.
- Bad News – There is a decent chance you will lose your license for some period of time.
- A good DWI lawyer will either a) beat your DWI, or b) significantly decrease the license suspension, and c) let you know EXACTLY what your chances of success are, your best strategies, and your biggest obstacles to a GREAT result.
In order to understand how to FIGHT your DWI case, you should know exactly what the State is looking to PROVE in order to convict you of drunk driving.
- The State wants to prove that the arresting officer had reasonable suspicion to pull you over.
- The State wants to prove that the arresting officer had a reason to pull you out of the car and conduct the SFSTs.
- The State wants to prove that you failed the SFSTs.
- The State wants to prove, that as a result of your breath sample (via the Alcotest 7110), you were in fact intoxicated.
If the State can prove all of this, then you will be convicted of driving while intoxicated. Making matters worse is the fact that plea-bargaining DWI cases is forbidden and the fact that provisional licenses are prohibited in New Jersey. As result, the best defense is a prepared, effective, and aggressive offense.
That said, there are a few proven strategies that your attorney should use to fight your DWI case.
1.) Challenge the traffic stop.
Most municipal police and all New Jersey State Police patrol cars have Motor Vehicle Recording units (MVRs), familiarly know as dash-cams. MVRs begin recording once the officer activates the overhead lights and siren to engage in the traffic stop. Additionally, the MVR will automatically record the 30 seconds immediately prior to the activation of the overhead lights.
You are entitled to the MVR. Sometimes the MVR fails to capture a traffic violation. Without a traffic violation leading to the traffic stop, the State’s case becomes awfully thin.
2.) Mitigate the results of the SFSTs.
Standardized Field Sobriety Tests are tests conducted by the police, usually at the scene of the stop, that are used to determine whether you may considered intoxicated based upon police observations.
There are three tests:
One Leg Stand
The officer asked you to stand on one foot while raising the other 6 inches from the ground, keeping your arms at your sides while counting.
Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus
This is NOT to see if your eyes can follow the light! It is used to measure whether the officer can detect nystagmus, the involuntary shaking or repositioning of the eye back to the center. Nystagmus is a natural defense mechanism used by your body to offset some of the effects of the onset of intoxication.
Walk and Turn
Keep your arms at your sides while stepping heel-to-toe nine times. Spin around and come back the same way.
The unfortunate reality is that most people would fail these tests while stone sober.
There are a few ways to fight the SFSTs.
- Challenge the results if they were captured on the MVR (which they should be but often aren’t)
- Challenge the results based on the audio from the scene of the stop.
- Have some pre-existing injury or condition that precludes you from successfully completing the SFSTs. Think legs, back, equilibrium issues, etc.
It is often difficult to beat the SFSTs outright, but calling into question their veracity while attacking other issues can lead to a GREAT result.
3.) Beat the Alcotest 7110
In order to convict you of a first offense DUI and impose the maximum penalties (7-12 months), the State MUST prove that your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC)was .08% or higher. In the eyes of the Court, this BAC proves that you are scientifically and factually intoxicated. If the State cannot prove .08%, then the worst you can get is a 3 month loss of license. Beating the Alcotest requires an attorney who understands the inner-workings of the device and can call into question, sometimes with the help of an expert, the veracity of the test.
These issues include:
- 20 Minute Issue- The officer must observe you, uninterrupted, for twenty minutes directly prior to administering the test to make sure you don’t belch, burp, regurgitate, or have any other bodily function that can throw off the test by artificially increasing the volume of alcohol in your mouth.
- Calibration Issues- It is a complex machine that must be administered, repaired, and replaced properly. There are a number of calibration issues that can be determined.
- Certification Issues- Every officer that touches this machine must be certified to operate, repair, or replace it.
If any of these, or any other, issue exist with the Alcotest, the reading can be thrown out, leaving you with a three month loss of license to face.
Usually, driving while intoxicated charges can be beaten when a few issues exist within the same case. In these cases, it is wise to eliminate one issue at a time, removing one hurdle before attacking the next. For example, when the BAC is thrown out you can then move fight the SFSTs.
Ocean County DWI charges are tough. Whether you were stopped and pulled over in Toms River, Seaside Heights, Stafford, or Belmar, you have an uphill battle. Now that you know the steps to use to fight your DWI, its time an attorney that will provide excellent representation from start to finish. Feel free to contact McGuckin Law at 732.924.4200 any time. Good luck!