In New Jersey, driving while intoxicated (DWI) is a serious offense that can result in significant penalties. A conviction for DWI results in a suspension of your driver’s license, as well as a fine and the possibility of jail time. The state has to follow a lengthy process before the case gets to the point at which you could face a conviction. This process can seem overwhelming to many people. An experienced DWI attorney can help you understand how the process works and what you may do to assert your rights. The following is an overview of what happens during a typical New Jersey DWI arrest.
Investigation at the Scene
A traffic stop is one of the most common ways in which a DWI case begins. A police officer might see a car driving erratically and suspect DWI. They might pull someone over for another traffic violation, such as running a red light, and suspect DWI based on factors like the driver’s behavior or the smell of alcohol.
The officer must have probable cause to suspect a driver of DWI before they may proceed further with an investigation. They may ask a driver questions about whether they have had anything to drink. They may also ask the driver to perform certain field sobriety tests (FSTs). A driver can refuse to perform the FSTs, but that most likely will not stop the officer from placing them under arrest.
Investigation at the Police Station
Once an officer has arrested a driver, they will transport them to the police station. An officer will administer a breath test by using a device known as the Alcotest. This measures a person’s blood alcohol content (BAC). New Jersey law presumes that a person is too impaired to drive safely if their BAC is 0.08 percent or more.
New Jersey law requires police to follow specific procedures when using an Alcotest device. For example, they must observe the driver for a period of 20 minutes before collecting a breath sample, during which time the person may not put anything in their mouth. This helps to limit the chance of something contaminating the sample. A driver cannot refuse to submit a breath sample for testing under state law.
Issuing a Ticket
DWI is a motor vehicle offense in New Jersey, rather than a criminal offense. If the police believe that a driver has committed DWI, they will issue a traffic ticket listing the offenses that the officer believes that the driver has committed.
Police do not normally hold someone for DWI unless they also suspect criminal activity, or unless the driver allegedly caused serious injury to a person or substantial damage to someone’s property. Once they have issued the ticket, police will often release the person.
Impounding the Vehicle
While the police often release the driver, they will not let them leave in their own vehicle. The vehicle may be impounded for up to 12 hours.
Setting a Court Date
The ticket will indicate when the person must appear in court. This gives the driver time to hire an attorney, although it is often not a large amount of time.
Evan Levow is a New Jersey DWI lawyer who represents people facing DWI charges in this state’s municipal courts. He can advise you about your rights, help you understand your options and navigate the court process, and present a defense against the state’s allegations. To schedule a free, confidential consultation with a member of our team, contact us today online or at (877) 593-1717.