SplitShire [Public domain, CC0 1.0 (https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/)], via PexelsA driving while intoxicated (DWI) conviction comes with a mandatory period of license suspension, as well as the possibility of a fine and jail time. Subsequent convictions bring greater penalties. The offense of driving while license suspended (DWLS) also results in penalties, and it is considered a criminal offense in certain circumstances. Beyond New Jersey’s traffic and criminal statutes, DWI and DWLS may have consequences in other areas as well. In one recent case, several prior DWI convictions, and the resulting license suspension, brought two parents to the attention of state child protection workers. The New Jersey Appellate Division addressed this in its decision in New Jersey Div. of of Child Prot. and Permanency v. P.A.

The penalty for a first DWI conviction depends on the defendant’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC). If the BAC was 0.08 percent or greater, but less than 0.10 percent, New Jersey law imposes a penalty that may include a three-month license suspension, a fine of $250 to $400, 12 to 48 hours of programs at the Intoxicated Driver Resource Center, and up to 30 days in jail. If the defendant’s BAC was above 0.10 percent for the first conviction, the fine is $300 to $500, and the period of license suspension is seven months to one year. By the third or subsequent offense, the jail term is at least 180 days, and the period of license suspension is 10 years.

A first-offense DWLS carries a fine of $500. If the reason for the underlying license suspension was a DWI conviction, state law also requires the revocation of the defendant’s vehicle registration. Operating a vehicle without a valid registration can result in impoundment of the vehicle. For a second DWLS conviction, the fine increases to $750, and the defendant is subject to a one-to-five-day jail sentence. A third offense leads to a $1,000 fine and a 10-day jail sentence. Criminal DWLS occurs in certain situations involving prior DWI and DWLS convictions, and it carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 180 days’ imprisonment.

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Scheinwerfermann (original uploader at English Wikipedia) (Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia CommonsThe Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures means that police officers cannot stop a person while driving without reasonable suspicion of an offense, and they cannot search or arrest someone without probable cause. A person charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI) and other offenses also has the right to confront their accuser, usually the arresting officer, under the Sixth Amendment’s Confrontation Clause. A DWI defendant recently appealed the denial of her motion to suppress in State v. Ciernak, challenging the sufficiency of the evidence leading to her traffic stop. She further argued that the officer lacked justification to stop her under the “community caretaking function,” an exception to the Fourth Amendment’s search-and-seizure provisions.

Court decisions at the state and federal levels have held that field sobriety tests and breath tests in DWI cases require probable cause, such as if an officer detects an odor of alcohol or other indicators of intoxication, if they observe the vehicle driving erratically, or if the driver admits to consuming alcohol. This standard is lessened, however, under the “community caretaking function,” which holds that police are permitted to stop vehicles in the absence of suspicion of any specific traffic or criminal offense, if they reasonably believe there is a danger to public safety.

The U.S. Supreme Court articulated the elements of the community caretaking function in 1973 in Cady v. Dombrowski, which involved the search of a vehicle involved in a traffic accident. The search yielded illegal firearms, and the court upheld the constitutionality of the search. The New Jersey Appellate Division has affirmed the community caretaking function in situations like driving slowly on the shoulder of a highway with the left turn signal activated for approximately one-tenth of a mile (State v. Goetaski, 1986), and remaining stopped at a green traffic light for 23 seconds (State v. Hancock, 2014). The New Jersey Supreme Court, however, held that the community caretaking function does not justify entering a person’s home without consent to conduct a welfare check without “an objectively reasonable basis to believe that there is an emergency” (State v. Vargas, 2013).

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Peggy_Marco [Public domain, CC0 1.0 (https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/deed.en)], via PixabayA DWI conviction in New Jersey has numerous repercussions, starting with a three- to seven-month driver’s license suspension for a first offense. Courts may also impose a jail sentence for DWI and order a defendant to complete various services. These penalties are prescribed by the New Jersey Motor Vehicles and Traffic Regulations Code, but other areas of New Jersey law may also impose consequences for a DWI conviction. Defending a DWI case requires understanding all the ways in which the case could affect your life. The New Jersey Appellate Division reviewed the consequences of a DWI conviction for public pension benefits earlier this year in Tavaglione v. Bd. of Trustees, Police and Firemen’s Ret. Sys.

Most public employees in New Jersey at the state, county, and city levels are eligible to participate in pension funds established under state law. A pension is a type of retirement account. An employee makes contributions to the pension account from their wages. The employer establishes a trust to manage these contributions for the employees’ benefit. Upon an employee’s retirement, they receive periodic benefit payments.

Laws like the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and the New Jersey Public Employees’ Retirement-Social Security Integration Act establish guidelines that employers must follow in the management of pensions and other retirement funds. New Jersey, along with other states, also sets guidelines that public employees must follow in order to receive benefits. New Jersey law states, first and foremost, that pension benefits are dependent upon “the rendering of honorable service by a public officer or employee.”

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jingoba [Public domain, CC0 1.0 (https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/deed.en)], via PixabayPretrial intervention (PTI) is available to some criminal defendants, typically people with no prior convictions, that can potentially result in the dismissal of all charges and, in many cases, the expungement of all records of the arrest and charges. Admission to the PTI program typically requires approval from the PTI program director and the prosecutor. PTI is only available for criminal defendants, so people charged with a traffic offense like driving while intoxicated (DWI) cannot apply for the program. Driving while license suspended (DWLS) based on a prior DWI conviction, however, could be considered a criminal offense. The New Jersey Appellate Division recently heard several cases involving the PTI applications of people charged with criminal DWLS.

The PTI program, according to state law, provides “early rehabilitative services or supervision” with the goal of “deter[ring] future criminal behavior,” easing criminal courts’ dockets, and “permitting the least burdensome form of prosecution possible” for defendants charged with certain offenses. Under Rule 3:28 of the New Jersey Rules of Court, a judge may postpone criminal proceedings for a maximum of thirty-six months once a defendant has been accepted into the PTI program. If the defendant successfully completes the program, the court dismisses the charges. If the defendant fails to meet the conditions of the program, the court can place the case back on its trial docket.

DWLS becomes a fourth-degree criminal offense if it occurs during a suspension period that results from a second or subsequent DWI conviction or a prior DWLS conviction. The statute includes a mandatory minimum jail sentence of 180 days.
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Police_Mad_Liam [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)], via FlickrThe Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects people from “unreasonable searches and seizures” by law enforcement. It requires police, in order to obtain a search warrant, to demonstrate “probable cause” to believe that the search will yield evidence of criminal activity. U.S. courts have identified various exceptions to the warrant requirement, but it remains a powerful safeguard of people’s rights. The New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division recently considered a DWI defendant’s argument that her admission to drinking alcohol during a lawful traffic stop did not provide enough probable cause to justify breath testing or field sobriety testing. The court rejected this argument in State v. Dunn, finding that her voluntary admission was enough to establish probable cause.

Courts have identified numerous exceptions to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement. The “automobile exception,” for example, holds that cars and other motor vehicles may be subject to stops and limited searches without a warrant. The primary rationale for this exception is that any evidence a vehicle might contain is at risk of disappearing. This has an obvious bearing on DWI cases, many or most of which begin with a traffic stop.

The Supreme Court has held that police may stop a person and conduct a basic search, even without enough probable cause to support a warrant, if they have a reasonable suspicion that the person is in the process of committing, has recently committed, or is about to commit an offense. This is known as a “Terry stop,” after the Supreme Court’s 1968 decision in Terry v. Ohio. It applies both to in-person stops, often known as “stop and frisks,” and to traffic stops.

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OpenClipartVectors [Public domain, CC0 1.0 (https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/deed.en)], via PixabayIn any court proceeding in which the state seeks to impose penalties on a person for an alleged violation of the law, the defendant has the right to obtain evidence used by the state in the case. The process of obtaining evidence from opposing parties is known as “discovery” in both civil and criminal proceedings. Under New Jersey law, driving while intoxicated (DWI) is considered a traffic offense rather than a criminal offense, but defendants are still entitled to discovery before a case goes to trial. New Jersey courts have held, however, that a defendant’s right to discovery in a DWI case is narrower than in a criminal case. The court reviewed these rights, and the state’s obligations, in February 2016 in State v. Conroy, when it ruled on a defendant’s challenge to the state’s evidence.

New Jersey law enforcement uses a device known as the Alcotest to measure blood alcohol concentration (BAC) in breath samples obtained from DWI suspects. State law requires any law enforcement officer operating an Alcotest device to be certified in accordance with standards established by the New Jersey Attorney General. These standards, which are codified in Title 13, Chapter 51 of the New Jersey Administrative Code (NJAC), require a Breath Test Operator (BTO) to have an “operator’s certificate” that is valid at the time they administer a test to a suspect. The NJAC states that a “replica certificate” with the “facsimile signature of the Superintendent [of the State Police] and the Attorney General” is valid to establish a BTO’s credentials.

The New Jersey Supreme Court’s 2008 decision in State v. Chun established that the state must produce certain documents in any case that relies on breath testing evidence obtained with an Alcotest device. Subsequent decisions from the Appellate Division have identified types of evidence that do not fall under the requirements of Chun. Two decisions, State v. Maricic from 2010 and State v. Carrero from 2012, held that discovery in DWI cases is more limited than in criminal proceedings.

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Pete Linforth [Public domain, CC0 1.0 (https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/deed.en)], via PixabayLegal prohibitions against marijuana are falling aside all across the country, as a majority of U.S. states now permit at least limited use of the drug for medical purposes. New Jersey has enacted a medical marijuana statute that allows use with a prescription and under a doctor’s supervision. A handful of states have legalized marijuana entirely, while other states, like New York, have decriminalized its use. This means that, while recreational marijuana use is still against the law in New York, it is no longer considered a criminal offense. Driving under the influence of drugs (DUID) has always been a concern for law enforcement alongside driving while intoxicated (DWI). Widespread legalization of marijuana for various uses has led to renewed attention to the issue, as well as attempts to amend existing laws in New Jersey and elsewhere.

Marijuana remains a Schedule I controlled substance under New Jersey law, but the Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act made the cultivation, sale, possession, and use of marijuana legal for specific purposes, under strict medical guidelines. Under current New Jersey law, the offense of DWI includes driving while under the influence of a “narcotic, hallucinogenic or habit-producing drug.” The statute does not specify an amount of any particular drug that must be present in a person’s body at the time they were driving, with the well-known exception of alcohol. A person with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent is presumed to be legally impaired. This is known as a “per se standard.” Some states do identify a per se standard for particular drugs, such as Pennsylvania’s requirement of one nanogram of THC, the active component of marijuana, per milliliter of blood.

At least 11 states have adopted “zero tolerance” DUID policies, meaning that any amount of an illegal controlled substance in a person’s system meets the per se standard for impairment. Since different drugs remain in a person’s bloodstream for different periods of time, most states use tests that detect the presence of the drug or byproducts created as the body metabolizes the drug, known as metabolites. New Jersey’s DWI statute makes no specific mention of either a per se standard or a zero tolerance policy.

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OpenClipartVectors [Public domain, CC0 1.0 (https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/deed.en)], via PixabayNew Jersey prosecutors can use evidence of a defendant’s blood alcohol content (BAC) to establish guilt in a case of alleged driving while intoxicated (DWI). A BAC of 0.08 percent or higher creates a presumption of impairment. New Jersey law effectively requires drivers, when a police officer suspects DWI, to submit a breath sample for BAC analysis, on penalty of a fine or license suspension. State law also requires officers to read a “Standard Statement” to a driver prior to administering a breath test. A defendant recently appealed her conviction for a refusal to submit to breath testing by challenging the legal sufficiency of the Standard Statement. While the Appellate Division ruled against her, its opinion in State v. Quintero offers a useful overview of New Jersey refusal law.

Simply by operating a vehicle on public roads within this state, drivers in New Jersey are considered to have given “implied consent” to breath testing. A refusal to submit to breath testing after an arrest on suspicion of DWI is considered a traffic offense, separate from the offense of DWI. A first-time refusal offender could face a license suspension of seven months to one year, and a fine of $300 to $500. This increases to a two-year suspension and a $500-$1,000 fine for a second offense, and a 10-year suspension and a $1,000 fine for a third.

The “implied consent” law requires people to provide evidence that could be used against them by prosecutors in municipal court. Despite this, courts have generally held that it does not violate the Fifth Amendment’s privilege against self-incrimination. The self-incrimination privilege protects a person from being compelled to testify against themselves, and courts have held that submitting a sample of breath is not “testimony.”

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By dysamoria from USA ([ Flickr]) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsThe law of driving while intoxicated (DWI) in New Jersey gives the state multiple ways to establish that a defendant was impaired by alcohol or another drug. Blood alcohol content (BAC) is not required for prosecutors to obtain a conviction. Prosecutors can also offer testimony from an arresting officer describing a defendant’s performance on field sobriety tests, their behavior and demeanor, and other observations. Some police departments make use of drug recognition evaluators (DREs), officers with specialized training in identifying the effects of drugs other than alcohol.

The New Jersey Appellate Division considered a defendant’s challenge to DRE testimony in late 2015 in an unpublished decision, State v. Vazquez.  The court misinterpreted New Jersey case law and found  that New Jersey courts have recognized them as qualified experts.  That is incorrect.  The court relied on a 2006 New Jersey Supreme Court decision, State v. Bealor, which held that DRE testimony was admissible in a marijuana case, because the court thought that marijuana intoxication is so easy to spot, and accepted the DRE’s testimony that Mr. Bealor was under the influence of marijuana.  Bealor was wrongly decided, and it is now being used to support a proposition that is incorrect.

Prosecutors can use the New Jersey DWI statute to charge someone with driving under the influence of drugs (DUID), which requires proof that they were driving “while under the influence of…[a] narcotic, hallucinogenic or habit-producing drug.” Breath, blood, and urine tests are at least somewhat effective at ascertaining the amount of alcohol in a person’s system, and the way the human body typically metabolizes alcohol allows reasonable estimates, based on a person’s BAC, of how recently they were drinking. Other drugs are not as easily testable, which means that prosecutors must rely on other types of evidence to prove impairment. This is where some departments have started using DREs.

A DRE receives training in how to recognize the effects of various drugs in order to determine whether a person is legally impaired, usually after an arrest for suspected DWI or DUID. The International Association of Chiefs of Police oversees training and certification. DREs use a 12-step process that begins with a review of BAC results, if any, and an interview of the arresting officer. The DRE then conducts an examination of the arrestee, which includes checking their pulse, examining their eye movements (similar to a field sobriety test), conducting tests of physical coordination, taking their blood pressure, and checking their pulse again. It also includes a “muscle tone” examination, based on the theory that “certain categories of drugs may cause the muscles to become rigid,” while others may make them “very loose and flaccid.”  This 12 step process has not been validated or held to be scientifically reliable in New Jersey.  Because the Vazquez opinion is unpublished, it carries no precidential weight.

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Kaedesis [Public domain, CC0 1.0 (https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/deed.en)], via PixabayWhen prosecutors in New Jersey pursue a case of alleged driving while intoxicated (DWI), they frequently rely on evidence of a defendant’s blood alcohol content (BAC) obtained through breath or blood testing. Anyone with a BAC of 0.08 percent or above is presumed to be impaired for the purpose of a DWI case. Police in this state typically use a device known as an Alcotest to collect and test breath samples from DWI suspects. We were counsel in a case that went before the New Jersey Supreme Court in 2008, State v. Chun, which established multiple guidelines that the state must follow in order to use BAC evidence obtained with an Alcotest device. The state Supreme Court recently reversed a DWI conviction in another case, State v. Kuropchak, based on improper documentation regarding the Alcotest used by police.

Police in New Jersey currently use the Draeger Alcotest® 7110 MKIII-C. The DWI suspect blows into a tube, and the device analyzes the breath sample to estimate the person’s BAC. It bases its estimate on a “2,100 to 1 blood/breath alcohol ratio,” meaning that its programming assumes that 2,100 parts of breath contain the same amount of alcohol as one part of blood. This assumption was one of the many features of the Alcotest that were challenged in Chun.

The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in Chun that the Alcotest is generally acceptable by scientific standards, but it imposed a variety of conditions on police using the device, and on prosecutors seeking to admit BAC evidence obtained with the device. The state must produce two documents relating to the calibration and maintenance of the device. It must produce a Certificate of Analysis showing that the device has the proper “simulator solution,” a solution typically designed to return a 0.10 percent result to use as a comparison to the breath sample. The state must also produce the most recent report documenting maintenance of the device, known as the “Calibrating Unit New Standard Solution Report.”

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