Imagine that you’re driving home after having dinner with some friends. As you turn onto a street near your home, you notice the flashing red and blue lights of a police car in your rearview mirror.
As you slow down and pull over, all sorts of questions start running through your head. Why am I getting pulled over? Was I speeding? Did I come to a complete stop at that stop sign? Did I use my blinker? All of the sudden, you remember that you had a couple of glasses of wine at dinner and panic sets in.
This is a scenario that plays out throughout the Atlantic City area frequently and if it happens to you, it’s important that you understand the procedures that police officers must follow as well as your rights.
- Probable cause or at least Reasonable Suspicion – A police officer cannot arbitrarily decide to pull you over. Rather, an officer must have probable cause or, at a minimum, reasonable suspicion that there has been a violation of the traffic or criminal code, which may include things like speeding or driving too slowly, driving with a broken taillight, or drifting across the center lane.
- Field sobriety tests – If a police officer suspects that you have been drinking, he or she will likely ask how much you’ve had to drink. If this happens, you have a right to remain silent and to decline to answer; often, it is best to say nothing at all. An officer may then conduct a series of field sobriety tests including the walk-and-turn, one-leg stand and horizontal gaze nystagmus. Again, you have a right to decline to participate in these tests. If, based on the results of these tests, an officer believes that you are intoxicated; he or she may request that you submit to a Breathalyzer.
- Implied consent and right to refuse – New Jersey’s implied consent law requires that licensed drivers submit to breath and chemical tests. You have no right to refuse to take the Alcotest (the breath test). If you refuse, you will be charged with refusal and you will be subject to a mandatory loss of license under most circumstances. On the other hand, you do have the right to refuse to provide urine or blood and you will not be charged with any offenses.
If You Are Facing DUI Charges
A DUI conviction carries serious penalties including the suspension of your driver’s license, hefty fines, time in jail and community service. Additionally, a DUI conviction may also result in the loss of a job and harm to personal relationships with family members, friends and work colleagues.
DUI cases can be complex and every detail matters. For example, did a police officer have probable cause to pull you over? Were you taking any prescription drugs at the time of an arrest? Were you suffering from any physical injuries or ailments? What about the Breathalyzer test-was it conducted correctly?
An attorney who handles DUI criminal defense cases will thoroughly investigate the facts of your case to determine the best defense strategy.