How Common Are DWI Arrests In New Jersey?
DWI arrests in New Jersey are way down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Officers are more reluctant to pull people over unless it’s an extreme situation. Things have loosened up since the summer and going into the fall. But now with the second wave hitting, we’re starting to see another drop-off in citations being issued. COVID-19 has had a significant impact, with business down by half overall this year compared to prior years. This is a direct reflection on how many summonses are issued in the course of a year.
Normally, police would issue 30,000 to 35,000 DWI tickets per year. Like many attorneys in New Jersey, I’m not drowning, but I certainly feel like I’m just treading the water. As a sole practitioner, I run a lean business with very little overhead, so I’ve been able to survive and maintain a modified standard of living. Frankly, it isn’t too difficult given that half of the restaurants are shut down.
Are There Many False Arrests Or Cases In New Jersey Where DWI Tickets Or Charges Are Going To Be Dropped Due To Facts Proving The Driver Was Not Actually Intoxicated While Driving?
When it comes to proving whether a driver was intoxicated while driving, you have to keep in mind that the entire burden of proof is on the state. False arrests are very few and far between. The standard for arrest is probable cause, which is a fairly low burden of proof. The issue of probable cause is a preliminary question, and in layman’s terms, that question boils down to this: Based on information available to the officer at the time, did that officer have a reasonable basis on which to continue the investigation? The continuation of that investigation is an arrest for the purpose of administering the breath test at the police station.
Very little is needed to justify a motor vehicle stop. The standard of proof is called reasonable suspicion, which is pretty much what it sounds like. As long as it’s something reasonable, such as crossing the line, speeding, unusual driving behavior, or an accident, an officer would have reasonable suspicion on which to base a stop. We recently had a felony case where the stop of a car driven by a black man and two passengers occurred based on a radio transmission stating that there had been a recent burglary in the area involving two black men in a car. That was the entire basis for justifying the stop. The officer, I’m sure, acted in good faith, but that information alone did not justify that stop. This exemplifies a false arrest in New Jersey. But the vast majority of cases are based on a traffic infraction or equipment violation. There are very few false stops.
When police make probable cause determinations, people tend to make the same mistakes of admitting to drinking and attempting to do balance tests. These tests are designed to throw people off balance. With this loss of balance and admissions, an officer can easily articulate why there was probable cause. Again, it’s a low burden of proof. At pretrial stages, judges tend to give police the benefit of the doubt rather than the defendant.
What Is The Legal Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) Level Under New Jersey DWI Laws?
The blood alcohol concentration or BAC is consistent around the country. In New Jersey, the BAC is deemed to be, as per se violation, 0.08%. The per se offense is defined by blood alcohol content. Although, the most common way of measuring BAC is indirectly by measuring breath alcohol content or BrAC. The theory is that there is a direct relationship between the amount of alcohol in a person’s breath and the amount of alcohol in a person’s blood. There are many ways to challenge that scientifically, but some of those scientific challenges have been deemed irrelevant as a matter of law. The key phrase is “as a matter of law,” not as a matter of fact or as a matter of science. Nonetheless, courts use BrAC to make the administration of DWI per se laws easier for the police and to maintain at least an appearance of fairness.
What Is The Average BAC You See From People Charged With DWI Who Come Into Your Office?
The average DWI BAC level is somewhere between 0.16% and 0.17%. Most people would be pretty intoxicated if they had a 0.16% or 0.17% BAC. But we all know that some people can hold their liquor better than others. There are all kinds of factors that go into that as well.
Do You Find That Many People Are Often Surprised That They Were Deemed To Be Intoxicated?
Some people with a lower BAC level tend to be surprised at finding out that they were deemed to be intoxicated. If a person is used to consuming alcohol, he or she is generally prudent in how they drive. Some people truly believe that they’re not guilty. Clients will often admit, “Yes, I shouldn’t have been driving that night.” But if asked whether they would have driven or made other arrangements knowing they were under the influence of alcohol, most people answer, “Well, we would have made other arrangements. I just didn’t think I was under the influence.” That person, like all defendants, is presumed innocent, and the State has the entire burden of proving their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial in-person before a judge.
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