If you were stopped while driving safely, within the speed limit, and not breaking any traffic law, the police then would have no reasonable suspicion to justify a stop. Contact our Mercer County NJ Criminal Lawyers Today.
Most cases of driving while intoxicated (DWI) begins when a police officer pulls a driver over on the road. There are plenty of laws to be considered. The laws stem from the U.S. Constitution and include the ideas of “reasonable suspicion” and “probable cause.”
What is “Reasonable Suspicion”?
A police officer can only pull a motorist over if he has a “reasonable suspicion” of a DWI. Reasonable suspicion is a crucial aspect of a DWI case. The following can constitute behaviors that would lead law enforcement to have a reasonable suspicion:
- Drifting in and out of the lane
- Driving in the opposite direction from the flow of traffic
- Driving erratically
- Running red lights or stop signs
- Hitting another vehicle
If you were stopped while driving safely, within the speed limit, and not breaking any traffic law, the police then would have no reasonable suspicion to justify a stop. You may have been subjected to an unlawful police stop.
When a person is charged with DWI in the State of New Jersey, the prosecutor bears the burden of proving each offense’s element, including proving that the police did not violate the person’s rights. These rights come from the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures.
If the officer lacked legal justification for the stop, the court could suppress any evidence gained as a result of the stop or dismiss the case completely. It is up to the defendant and his legal counsel to move to suppress evidence gained in violation of Fourth Amendment rights.
New Jersey courts have held that, when a police officer stops a vehicle due to reasonable suspicion, he may ask about matters that are not directly related to the stop—only if he or she has further reasonable suspicion. For example, if an officer pulls a driver over for running a stop sign, they cannot investigate the driver for DWI unless they have reasonable suspicion for that offense. Slurred speech or bloodshot eyes, or the odor of alcohol would give them a reasonable suspicion. Only then may the officer ask the driver to perform roadside sobriety tests, and the officer can only then make an arrest.
Incidentally, many people are unaware that, under New Jersey law, you are not required to submit roadside sobriety tests. You are, however, required to submit to a breath or blood test.
Another legal aspect that crops up in DWI cases is Probable Cause.
What is “Probable Cause”?
Case law defines probable cause as “knowledge of facts and circumstance sufficient for a prudent person to believe a suspect is committing or has committed an offense.”
New Jersey State Law N.J.S.A.39:5-25 states: “A law enforcement officer may arrest without a warrant any person who the officer has probable cause to believe has operated a motor vehicle [while intoxicated].”
The courts find the probable cause when the arresting officer has a well-founded suspicion or belief of guilt. Judges determine probable cause largely on common sense, on a case-by-case basis.
As a general rule, police must obtain a warrant to make an arrest, conduct a search, or seize property. But the courts have identified exceptions, and police in practice may conduct warrantless searches in certain situations. Courts have ruled that police may briefly detain a person without a warrant—and without the probable cause required to obtain a warrant—if they can demonstrate a reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing.
Get Help With Your NJ DWI or DUI Charge
Regardless of the circumstances that led to your DWI or DUI arrest, there is little doubt that a knowledgeable lawyer can make a big difference in your case’s outcome. Probable cause and reasonable suspicion are just two of some legal issues that could allow you to avoid a DWI conviction.
We at The Law Office of Kamensky, Cohen & Riechelson know all of them and have the experience to apply them in your case. To schedule a confidential consultation with a member of our team today regarding your personal injury case, please call us at (609) 528-2596.