No doubt you already know that driving while intoxicated (DWI) can saddle you with some serious consequences. It just takes a second to review N.J.S.A. 39:4-50 of the New Jersey Statutes to get a basic understanding of the legal definition. In New Jersey, DWI is a traffic offense. However, that doesn’t mean you won’t risk some hefty penalties if you’re suspected of driving while under the influence.
Truth be told, not all DWI matters are open and shut cases. With that in mind, you should share the circumstances of your arrest with an experienced New Jersey DWI attorney. Even information that seems unimportant can help your DWI lawyer prepare your defense and possibly prevent you from the consequences of a conviction.
If you are convicted of a DWI, you may have grounds to appeal the conviction. An experienced New Jersey DWI appeals attorney can guide you through the complicated legal process of appealing a drunk driving conviction.
DWI Conviction on Appeal
Navigating the New Jersey appellate process can be very involved. A recent New Jersey court case involved an appeal of a DWI conviction. State v. Robert Capers is an unpublished opinion written by the New Jersey Appellate Division. (The fact that it is unpublished means that it only applies to the named parties.)
On June 27, 2015, Robert Capers was charged with DWI when two Fort Lee police officers found him passed out in his parked car with its lights on and engine running. Capers’ arm and head were hanging out of the driver’s side window. The officers also observed a woman asleep in the passenger’s seat.
When Capers awoke, he told the officers—with watery eyes and slurred speech—that he had just returned from a graduation party. The police officials requested that Capers step out of the car. As he did so, Capers was unsteady, leaned on the vehicle, swayed back and forth, and spoke very slowly. Also, his eyes were blurry and bloodshot.
Capers was asked to submit to field sobriety tests that included the “walk and turn” and a “one-leg stand” test. As Capers performed the “walk and turn” test, police observed that he was breaking his feet apart during the instruction phase, starting too early, missing heel-to-toe steps, taking the incorrect number of steps, stepping off of the lines, failing to count, and holding his arms six inches away from his body.
Capers also failed the “one leg stand” test due to putting his foot down repeatedly, not counting aloud, and stopping the test.
The police arrested Capers and transported him to the police station to take a breathalyzer test, where he was observed for 20 minutes before administration of the test. The results showed that the defendant’s blood alcohol content (BAC) was .16, above the legal limit. Capers was convicted of DWI in municipal court. He appealed the judgment.
In his appeal, Capers argued that the State failed to establish that he was under the influence at the time of the operation of the vehicle. Furthermore, Capers contended that the breathalyzer was improperly administered based on conflicting police testimony that there was more than one officer in the room at the time.
The court disagreed on both points. The basis of the decision was categorized as observational evidence: keys in the ignition of Capers’ car, the engine running, and the defendant’s hand and head outside the window. According to the court, the actual operation of the car was not required. The judge opined, “…there is clear inference that he drove the vehicle to that location.”
Upon reviewing the lower court’s decision, the Appellate Division found that the breathalyzer reading was properly administered after corrective testimony “that there was only one officer in the room” to observe Capers and conduct the test, thus assuring conclusive proof as to the results. The judge concluded that the police followed the administrative rules. The appellate court upheld the lower court ruling of a DWI conviction.
Facing or Appealing DWI Charges?
The Law Offices of Beninato & Matrafaljo has extensive experience representing those charged with DWI and will thoroughly research the facts of your case to provide the best possible defense Contact us to see how we can help.