Holiday DWI Stories Illustrate Important Principles of New Jersey DWI Law

Kim [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/)], via FlickrThe holiday season, starting with Halloween and continuing through Christmas and other winter holidays, always brings stories of unusual events that go “viral” on the internet, including strange or embarrassing DWI arrests. This unwanted, if usually only temporary, fame is yet another consequence of a DWI arrest that happens regardless of the outcome in court. A DWI attorney’s job is not only to represent his or her clients in court, but to help them minimize the impact of an alleged offense on their lives while the court case is pending. Several news stories from the past year, including one in New Jersey, fell into this category. Our intention in discussing them is not to embarrass or make light of anyone, but rather to illustrate some important points of New Jersey DWI law that people need to know at any time of year.

The most recent story occurred in late December 2014, when police in Riverdale, New Jersey claim that they found a man asleep in a vehicle who was dressed as the popular “Elf on the Shelf” holiday toy. Although the vehicle was parked, its engine was reportedly running, the headlights were on, and the stereo was playing loudly. The officers alleged that they noticed a strong odor of alcohol on the man’s breath. They administered a field sobriety test and took him to the station for breath testing. He was issued a summons for DWI and released to a family member.

DWI cases usually begin with a traffic stop based on a police officer’s reasonable suspicion that the driver is impaired. Under New Jersey law, however, officers do not actually have to witness the person driving. In this case, state law enforcement guidelines for DWI cases say that police could infer that the man had been operating the vehicle because of its location in a parking lot, or the fact that its engine was running and the headlights were on. These observations may support probable cause for an arrest, but prosecutors must still prove all of the elements of DWI to obtain a conviction.

Several days before Halloween, police in upstate New York stopped a woman for driving without headlights and then arrested her for DWI. This story made headlines for two reasons. First, she was reportedly dressed in a zombie costume, after attending a Halloween party, when the police stopped her. Second, she was arrested for DWI again three hours later. Police cited her for DWI during her first arrest and released her to a friend. She was reportedly pulled over later that night for swerving on the same highway. She now faces two DWI charges, which are misdemeanors under New York law.

New Jersey actually has a law intended to prevent two DWI arrests in one night. “John’s Law” requires impoundment of a person’s vehicle for at least 12 hours after a DWI arrest. It also requires police to give a written statement to a person who picks up an arrestee after his or her release, which explains the possible legal consequences of allowing that person to drive while he or she is still under the influence. Under New Jersey law, someone who permits an intoxicated person to drive could be as liable for DWI as the driver.

A skilled and knowledgeable DWI attorney can help you if you have been charged with alleged DWI. We have committed 100% of our law practice at Levow & Associates to the defense of DWI cases. To schedule a free and confidential consultation, contact us online or at (877) 975-3399. We are available 24/7 to help you.

More Blog Posts:

New Jersey DWI Law Does Not Require Police to Witness Actual Driving, as Arrest of Sleeping Man for DWI Demonstrates, New Jersey DWI Attorney Blog, October 17, 2014

New Jersey’s DWI Statute Allows Prosecutors to Charge Passengers with DWI for “Permitting” Intoxicated Person to Drive, New Jersey DWI Attorney Blog, July 24, 2014

New Jersey Statute on Breath Testing for DWI Requires Unconditional “Yes” to Avoid Refusal Charge, Court Holds, New Jersey DWI Attorney Blog, July 7, 2014

Photo credit: Kim [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Flickr.