I recently represented a client charged with drunk driving (DWI) in Mount Olive, New Jersey. This was my client’s first offense for DWI with a blood alcohol content of .08%, which is the legal limit in New Jersey. My client was pulled over at 3:30 a.m. for failure to dim his high beams. He was driving his friend’s vehicle and was not familiar with the vehicle enough to dim his high beams when he passed a police vehicle. However, it was 3:30 in the morning, it had recently rained and was foggy, and there was no one else on the road. As a result, the failure to dim high beams violation was questionable at best. This was the only violation and the alleged probable cause for the motor vehicle stop. Upon approach of the vehicle, the officer allegedly smelled alcohol and my client admitted to having one beer that evening. Therefore, my client was asked to exit the vehicle and perform certain field sobriety tests to determine whether or not he was intoxicated. The field sobriety tests he performed included the “walk and turn test” and the “one leg stand test”. My client performed very well on the field sobriety tests but was arrested for drunk driving. When he was taken to the station he was administered a breath test on the Alcotest 7110 breath testing machine and his blood alcohol content (BAC) was .08%.

After my review of the police report and discovery package, I was able to isolate several issues that would make it difficult for the State to prove the driving while intoxicated (DWI) charge beyond a reasonable doubt. First, the probable cause for the stop was questionable. Next, there was a twenty minute (20) observation issue with regard to the admissibility of the breath test results. In New Jersey, state law requires that the defendant be observed for 20 minutes by a law enforcement officer prior to administering the breath test. The purpose of this 20 minute observation period is to ensure the reliability of the breath test result. If the defendant eats something, vomits, chews gum, burps, etc. then the defendant’s mouth alcohol level will be effected and the breath reading is not reliable in court. In this case, the purposeful 20 minute observation period was not complied with. As a result, the reading was not reliable and was suppressed. The State can still prove a DWI based on the psychophysical field sobriety tests. However, I advised my client to hire a field sobriety expert (former state trooper) who provided an expert report showing that the defendant performed well on the field sobriety tests.

Based on all these issues with the State’s case, the State dismissed the DWI charge and the defendant plead guilty to reckless driving with a thirty (30) day license suspension. This was a great result for the client and my law firm.