If you are age 21 or over, it is legal for you to imbibe alcohol in New Jersey. If you have a couple drinks and then get behind the wheel of your car to drive, does it mean you are breaking the law? There is no definite answer for this question because, whether or not you illegally operated a motor vehicle would depend on the amount of alcohol in your bloodstream at the time, which, in many cases, is debatable.
Like most good drivers and responsible residents in New Jersey, you hopefully make cautious choices regarding alcohol consumption and motor vehicle operations. It might surprise you, however, to learn how many people have faced DUI arrests without ever having consumed alcohol before driving. It happens. This is why it’s critical that you understand your rights ahead of time, as well as what types of issues often lead to DUI arrests. It’s also a good idea to know where to seek support if a problem arises.
Police are watching
Law enforcement officers must carry out their duties to try to maintain peace and safety in their communities. This sometimes leads to stressful situations where they respond to emergency situations to help subdue criminals in action or regain control in a crowd. It also sometimes includes making traffic stops and arrests for suspected impaired driving incidents. Police can’t pull you over for no reason.
If an officer witnesses your car weaving, or some other driving behavior on your part that gives him or her reason to think you may be acting under the influence of alcohol, you can expect a traffic stop and a possible arrest if, during the traffic stop, the officer determines probable cause to take you into custody.
How is that determined?
The most common way police determine probable cause for DUI arrest during traffic stops is to conduct field sobriety tests at the scene. You are under no legal obligation to submit to such tests. There are no legal or administrative penalties for your refusal. However, prosecutors aggressively seeking conviction know how to use the fact that you refused to take a field test to try to incriminate you in court.
Most field tests include the walk-and-turn, one-leg stance or horizontal gaze nystagmus exercises. The problem is that many sober people have trouble performing well on such tests, which makes them highly unreliable as evidence of intoxication.
If a police officer places you in handcuffs and arrests you for suspected DUI, when you get to the police station, he or she may ask you to take a Breathalyzer test or provide a blood or urine sample. In New Jersey, you consented to take such tests in exchange for driving privileges. If you refuse, you are likely to incur serious administrative penalties that may include driver’s license suspension.
Refusing a chemical test is not a criminal offense, but it does violate implied consent rules, which is why your refusal activates automatic administrative penalties.
Building a strong defense
Other issues may impact the ultimate outcome of your situation when facing DUI charges in New Jersey. For instance, if authorities questioned you after taking you into custody without first having informed you of your Miranda rights, you may have grounds to request a case dismissal based on a personal rights violation.
It’s always best to request legal support rather than trying to fight DUI charges on your own. Laws vary by state, and you may be unaware of all options available to help protect your rights and preserve your freedom.