“Dry Towns” in New Jersey Often Have the Most DWI Arrests

BONNIE'S BRIDGE, CHERRY HILL, CAMDEN COUNTYNew Jersey laws dealing with driving while intoxicated (DWI) are consistent throughout the state, meaning that prosecutors in each county in New Jersey must meet the same burden of proof to obtain a conviction. A review of municipalities around the state by NJ.com, however, has found that some local police departments are much more assertive in enforcing these laws. New Jersey law allows municipalities to regulate the sale of alcoholic beverages, including by prohibiting their sale within city limits. These “dry towns,” according to the NJ.com report, have some of the highest DWI arrest rates in the state. Differences in arrest rates can have many possible causes, including prioritization by local law enforcement.

A person commits the offense of DWI if they operate a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol or drugs, or while they have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher. Police and prosecutors often prefer to prove impairment with BAC evidence, since a BAC above the “legal limit” of 0.08 percent creates a presumption of intoxication. They can also meet their burden of proof with evidence of how a driver behaved, appeared, or smelled at the time police pulled them over. During patrols, police may look for vehicles that are moving erratically, which could indicate impairment by a driver. Police are also allowed to operate roadside checkpoints for the purpose of checking motorists for common signs of intoxication. Each police department has wide leeway in setting enforcement priorities.

Businesses that serve or sell alcohol must have a license to do so. New Jersey law gives municipalities the authority to determine how many licenses, if any, to issue. A municipality might ban the sale of alcohol altogether, or it might prohibit retail sales while allowing restaurants to serve alcohol. New Jersey has 32 dry towns that prohibit alcohol sales to some extent. Most of these are located in the southern part of the state. Camden County is home to four dry towns:  Audubon Park, Collingswood, Haddon Heights, and Haddonfield.

The report from NJ.com identifies the dry towns with the most DWI arrests, and it notes that they also have more DWI arrests than most “wet towns” in New Jersey. Three of the four Camden County municipalities mentioned earlier are on this list. Collingswood had 18 DWI arrests in 2016, a 20 percent increase from the previous year. Haddon Heights had 21 arrests last year, and it had considerably more in 2015. Haddonfield had 22 arrests, only a slight decrease from a year earlier.

Ocean City, in Cape May County, produced an interesting development. The dry town had 37 DWI arrests in 2016, and it also ranked as the “drunkest city” in New Jersey in a USA Today report on rates of alcohol consumption. The report found that 18.3 percent of adults in Ocean City engage in “excessive alcohol consumption.” This is slightly more than the national average of 18 percent and the statewide average of 17.6 percent.

If you have been charged with DWI in a New Jersey court, you should consult with an experienced and knowledgeable defense advocate. DWI attorney Evan Levow has practiced in New Jersey for more than 20 years. You can contact us online or at (877) 593-1717 today to schedule a free and confidential consultation with a member of our team.

More Blog Posts:

Does the New Jersey DWI Statute Apply to Bicycles? New Jersey DWI Attorney Blog, October 23, 2017

Understanding the Scope of Courts’ Authority in New Jersey DWI Appeals, New Jersey DWI Attorney Blog, October 22, 2017

Ability to Drive Regardless of Alcohol Is Not a Defense to DWI in New Jersey, New Jersey DWI Attorney Blog, October 21, 2017

Photo credit: Jerrye & Roy Klotz, MD (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.