Police are not always allowed to detain you for a sobriety test in New Jersey. Rather, they must have a reasonable suspicion that you are intoxicated in addition to having violated a traffic law like speeding. If you believe that the police did not have a valid reason to ask you to perform roadside sobriety tests, call my office to speak with an experienced DWI defense lawyer.
After reviewing all the evidence in your case, including police reports, video tape, and other materials, we will decide if a suppression motion is warranted. A suppression motion is a legal maneuver asking the court to throw out certain evidence against you. If police did not have a good enough reason to stop your car, detain you for sobriety testing, or arrest you for DWI, a suppression motion can lead to some or all of the evidence that resulted from these procedures to be excluded at trial.
Once a police officer directs a defendant to begin sobriety tests, a legitimate stop escalates into a “temporary investigative detention because a reasonable person in defendant’s position would not have believed [he] was free to disobey” the direction. State v. Lord, 2006 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 2346 (App. Div. Oct. 5, 2006) (citing State v. Nikola, 359 N.J. Super. 573, 583 (App. Div.), certif. denied, 178 N.J. 30 (2003)).
Such a detention, often called a Terry stop, must be “based on ‘specific and articulable facts which, taken together with rational inferences from those facts,’ give rise to a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.” State v. Nishina, 175 N.J. 502, 511 (2003) (quoting State v. Rodriguez, 172 N.J. 117, 126 (2002)). “A detention that is the functional equivalent of an arrest must be supported by probable cause regardless of its duration.” State v. Dickey, 152 N.J. 468, 478 (1998). Factors to be weighed in deciding whether there was a de facto arrest include transporting a defendant to another location or confining him in a police car. Id. at 479.
In State v. Lord, the officer was on patrol when he observed the defendant’s vehicle cross both the center and shoulder lines. The officer then activated his video recorder and followed defendant’s car for approximately two and one-half minutes. The defendant denied drinking. The officer observed that the defendant’s “eyes were bloodshot and watery” and his face was “flushed.”
Nevertheless, the officer agreed that defendant did not slur his words, did not have difficulty producing his documents, and did not, at that time, exhibit any odor of alcohol. The officer then asked defendant to exit the car “to conduct some field sobriety tests….” According to the officer, his request was prompted by the defendant’s initial inability to maintain his lane, his bloodshot and watery eyes, his flushed face, and his failure to take the most direct route to his intended destination.
Based on these facts, the Appellate Division held in Lord that there was an insufficient basis for the officer to further detain the defendant for sobriety tests. The undisputed facts of the instant case are highly analogous to those in Lord.
Lord is great example of being creative in defending DWI charges. If you have been arrested for a DWI in New Jersey, contact one of my six office locations to speak with an experienced DWI lawyer. We can answer your questions and make sure your rights are protected.
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