New Jersey DWI Attorney John Menzel

Common Questions Asked When Someone Is Stopped For A DWI


What Rights Does Someone Have When They Are Stopped On Suspicion Of A DWI?

One troubling thing when dealing with people is how ignorant they are of their constitutional rights. In every encounter with the police, people have certain fundamental constitutional rights. The most important are the right to remain silent and the right to consult with an attorney. Police only have to remind people about those rights if, firstly, a person is arrested, and secondly, that person is questioned after the arrest. A person has those rights at all times, so that when a police officer asks questions, most people think it is a choice between lying and telling the truth, but there is a third choice that is usually overlooked, which is the right to not answer that question. However, this is not going to generate a very positive reaction from the officer.

The other thing is that the law in New Jersey basically requires the person to do five things that are pretty much common sense:

  • First, when you get a signal to pull over, you pull over; or if you are involved in an accident, you have to stay at the scene, as required by the law. That is the first condition.
  • Second, if an officer asks you to provide driving credentials or driver’s license insurance and registration cards, you have an obligation to provide them.
  • Third, if you are in your car and the officer orders you to get out of your car, you have to get out of your car.
  • Fourth, if an officer arrests you, you have to submit peacefully to that arrest.
  • Fifth and finally, if an officer asks you to blow into a breath testing machine, you have a legal obligation to do that.

If you do not do those things, he can issue separate charges against you for failing to do any of these five things.

What is not on that list are things like following a pen with your eyes, standing heel to toe, walking heel to toe, standing on one leg, reciting the alphabet or counting backwards. Some officers may ask a person to touch their finger to their nose, or bend over the waist. Some officers may even ask to take a person’s pulse or blood pressure, but none of those things are required under the law. In fact, it is typically advised not to do those tasks because they are designed to simply give the officer something to talk about in order to justify his arrest and maybe even enough to convince the judge that they are under the influence.

What Should Someone Do If They Have Been Stopped And Being Questioned?

When an officer says, “How much have you had to drink?” The most appropriate response is, “I don’t want to answer that question”. Usually they will say at that point, “Don’t lie to me, Sir or Ma’am. I can smell it on your breath. What did you have to drink?” At that point, a person should say, “I am not lying to you, officer. I am just not answering your question. I want to call my lawyer”. It all boils down to two words, “Silence” and “Attorney”. If you can remember those two words at the most critical time which is when you are all alone, face-to-face with the police officer, that will go a long way to leveling the playing field once you get into court. In fact, if you follow this advice, you may not even get arrested.

The biggest problem is that you are alone in a scary, unfamiliar situation; you have a police officer who is terrifying. People are scared. However, if you understand why an officer is reacting that way, it will help you follow this advice. The reason an officer reacts negatively is that you are going to pick up either consciously or subconsciously a lot of body language, maybe a change in the speech as he picks up the pace of how he speaks or raises his voice a little bit. The reason that cop is reacting that way is because you are doing two things to him:

  • First, you are violating his expectation because they gave him a gun, a badge and a uniform. They tell him he is important and usually when he asks people questions, he gets the answers. When he tells them to do balance test, people do them. In case when you do not answer his questions or do the balance tests, you are violating that officer’s expectations.
  • The second thing you are doing is you are frustrating his purpose, because he is not asking you to do these tests or to answer these questions, because he is looking to help you. He is doing it because he is trying to establish a probable cause and generate proof that can potentially be used to convict you.

It is just amazing to see how many people make it so easy for the police to get a conviction against them. There are so many cases when somebody has been asked, “How much have you had to drink?”, and they say, “Too much”, which is crazy. Unfortunately, each case is different and has to be tried based on the circumstances as best as possible. Since people make these mistakes, sometimes it becomes a question of damage control. However, attorneys prepare every case as if it is going to be tried because otherwise, they just do not take you seriously. The fact of the matter is there is so little difference between minimum and maximum penalties for a DUI in New Jersey. Unless the state makes some kind of a concession that either mitigates the damages or helps the person avoid the DUI all together, they are going to trial, that is all there is to it. The attorney will not let the person plead guilty.

Get Answers to Common Questions Asked When Someone Is Stopped for a DWI or call the law office of New Jersey DWI Attorney John Menzel, J.D. for an Initial Consultation at (888) 394-1394 and get the information and legal answers you’re seeking.

John Menzel, J.D.

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