Joseph A. Lombardo
The following is a guest post courtesy of Darwin Overson, a Salt Lake City DUI attorney.
DUI checkpoints, breathalyzers and field sobriety tests are all tactics employed by state and local police in New Jersey to detect those operating under the influence. How effective are these methods? Depends on who you ask and the type of equipment authorities use. On the heels of a judge’s ruling that overturned more than 20 alcohol-related convictions in neighboring Pennsylvania, police have reexamined their strategies for handling DUI suspects. Do you need a corresponding change to protect your rights? Our DUI lawyers explain.
Breathalyzers and Rights of Refusal
Pennsylvania police suffered a crushing defeat when a Harrisburg judge ruled that their primary alcohol-detection device used in stations across the state, the Intoxilyzer 5000, was so old that it could no longer detect blood alcohol levels in suspects with a measure of accuracy. So, the cops stopped using it everywhere. There are still handheld breathalyzer devices in use, so you need to stay on your guard when stopped by the authorities.
You have the right to refuse chemical testing, including a breathalyzer, in New Jersey. However, that refusal comes with a price – an automatic suspension of your driving privileges. Even if your DUI lawyer gets your case dismissed or obtains an acquittal, the Department of Motor Vehicles could still suspend your license based solely on your non-compliance with chemical testing. It’s possible to beat the suspension, if you have an experienced legal team behind you. Don’t let one cops decision to target you result in a yearlong loss of your ability to drive legally.
Field Sobriety Tests
Ah, the dreaded field sobriety tests – walking a straight line, reciting the alphabet backwards, stand on one leg. Police employ these tactics prior to a request for a breath sample to determine the level of your impairment in terms of reaction times and response to requests. If you don’t believe you can perform the tasks authorities ask you to perform, you have the right to refuse. Be polite, but firm. Unlike refusing to take a breathalyzer test, there’s no penalty for declining to perform field sobriety exercises. Of course, that may convince the authorities to request a breath, urine or blood sample from you, but better to have convincing evidence on your side than to fail at tasks better suited for recess in elementary school.
Blood Samples and Your Rights
The court may have some interesting lawsuits to deal with in the coming months with the authorities moving to blood samples exclusively, for the time being, to detect alcohol in the bodies of DUI suspects. A warrantless seizure of your bodily fluids from an officer who simply eyeballed your ‘impairment level’ shaves dangerously close to a violation of your Constitutional rights. You have the same right of refusal for blood testing as you do providing a breath sample in New Jersey barring a valid search warrant.
If you’ve been arrested for driving under the influence in New Jersey, you need a skilled lawyer at your side to see that your rights are upheld. With thousands of DUI cases handled, our firm is confident we can obtain the justice you deserve. Call today.
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