If you feel you have been unfairly charged with drunk driving, then read on. Police in Bayonne, New Jersey, recently charged a gentleman with drunk driving and other offenses. News reports indicate the cops saw the gentleman running red lights and driving erratically. Moreover, the cops claim they determined during the stop that he had been drinking. But the news did not disclose what the cops observed during the stop to form a belief about his intoxication. This matters! Despite this omission, however, the cops charged him with driving while intoxicated.
Before detaining him, the cops claim the gentleman ignored their commands to stop. Additionally, they saw him allegedly swerve on the road. Moreover, the cops claim he almost hit several parked vehicles. While arresting him, the cops claim this gentleman refused handcuffs and tried to return to his vehicle. Arguably, these observations could establish a suspicion about intoxication. But a suspicion is not enough to arrest and charge for DUI, and certainly not enough to convict.
The news reports indicated the cops also charged the motorist with eluding. Meanwhile, the cops probably charged him with resisting arrest, and reckless driving. Additionally, they probably also charged him with leaving the scene of an accident, and failure to maintain lane. But the news omitted the details about these additional charges, too.
Drunk Driving, N.J.S.A. 39:4-50
As summarized above, the news published the unsubstantiated allegation that this motorist had been drinking. For example, the news did not describe which of the standardized field sobriety tests the cops ordered him to perform. Additionally, the news omitted what the cops observed during the performance of each test. At best, the news report implies without specifically stating that he failed them.
The other alleged facts indicate something was wrong with the manner of operation. And that makes them problematic. But they are insufficient to determine whether the motorist drove under the influence of an intoxicating substance.
The court of public opinion has a reputation, among other things, for rushing to judgment. But a court of law must hold itself to a higher standard. Accordingly, a court would find the foregoing insufficient to prove a motorist was under the influence of an intoxicating substance. Indeed, New Jersey law requires proof of standardized field sobriety test results as well as the basis for the results.1 Thus, the cops must testify in detail, subject to cross-examination, about each test the motorist performed.
But the news concealed which tests the cops ordered the motorist to perform. It also concealed what the cops observed and the result of any psycho-physical tests. For example, the news does not report whether the cops conducted a horizontal gaze nystagmus test. Additionally, the news does not indicate whether the motorist performed the walk and turn test. Furthermore, the news does not reveal whether the cops ordered the motorist to perform the one-leg stand test. Moreover, the news does not disclose what the police observed or the result of each test.
Examples abound to illustrate the court of public opinion, aided and abetted by the mass media, rushing to judgment. But a court of law in New Jersey requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Therefore, no one charged with drunk driving should fall on a sword without a fight. Instead, if you need legal assistance please contact and hire a lawyer. Before making your choice of attorney, you should certainly give this matter careful thought. The selection of an attorney is an important decision.
1 State v. Morton, 39 N.J. 512 (1963)
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