Charged with DUI in New Jersey? Don’t Rely on These Flawed “Defenses”
Posted by Scott Gorman - June 30, 2022

If you are facing a DUI charge in New Jersey, you need to defend yourself by all means available. But, you also need to avoid asserting “defenses” that won’t actually protect you in court. Unfortunately, we see far too many cases of people thinking they can defend themselves, saying the wrong thing, and getting a DUI conviction that they could—and should—have avoided.

What mistakes do you need to avoid? Here are 10 examples of “defenses” that won’t protect you from Morristown DUI lawyer Scott Gorman.

1. “I Thought I Was Fine to Drive.”

New Jersey’s DUI statute states that it is illegal to, “operate[] a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor . . . or . . . with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or more.” It does not state that you have to intentionally drink and drive in order to be guilty of DUI. So, if you tell the judge, “I thought I was fine to drive,” this won’t do anything to protect you. In fact, if anything, this statement suggests that you now acknowledge that you were drunk behind the wheel.

2. “There’s No Way My BAC Reading Was Accurate.”

While there are several ways to challenge the reliability of a BAC reading, simply raising the question in court isn’t enough. In order to dispute the prosecution’s evidence that your BAC was over the legal limit, you will need compelling evidence of your own. Knowing what evidence you need—and collecting this evidence and preserving its admissibility in court—requires an in-depth understanding of New Jersey’s DUI laws and Municipal Court procedures.

3. “My BAC Wasn’t Over the Legal Limit.”

In some cases, the police will make a DUI arrest even when a driver’s BAC is not above the legal limit. If this happened in your case, does this provide you with a complete defense?

Under New Jersey law, the answer is a clear, “No.”

As quoted above, New Jersey’s DUI statute makes it illegal to drive with a BAC of 0.08 percent or above or to operate a vehicle while intoxicated. This means that regardless of your BAC, prosecutors will still be able to secure a conviction by presenting evidence (i.e., the arresting officer’s testimony or dash camera footage) that your driving abilities were impaired.

4. “Even Though My BAC Was Over the Legal Limit, I Was Still Fine to Drive.”

Just as you can’t avoid a DUI conviction by solely challenging your BAC reading, you also can’t avoid a conviction by solely challenging the prosecution’s evidence that you were impaired. Driving with a BAC of 0.08 percent or above is what is known as a “strict liability” offense. This means that if your BAC was over the legal limit, it doesn’t matter if you were still capable of maintaining full control of your vehicle.

5. “The Police Officer Stopped Me for Running a Red Light.”

If you were driving under the influence, it doesn’t matter why the police pulled you over. If the police stopped you for running a red light and observed signs of intoxication during your traffic stop, this is a perfectly valid way for the police to make a DUI arrest.  

6. “The Police Officer Didn’t Explain My Rights.”

During a DUI stop, the police are not required to explain your rights. This comes as a surprise to many people. While the police have certain limited obligations when it comes to explaining the implications of New Jersey’s implied consent law, they do not have to tell you that you can refuse the field sobriety tests, and they don’t have to read your Miranda rights unless they are getting ready to conduct a custodial interrogation. If you voluntarily took the field sobriety tests (whether you realized it was voluntary or not), or if you made any incriminating statements during your DUI stop, there is a good chance that prosecutors will be able to use these against you.

7. “I Was Behind the Wheel, But I Wasn’t Driving.”

What if the police approached your vehicle while you weren’t driving? For example, what if you are sitting in a parking lot? Or, what if you had pulled off to the side of the road after realizing it wasn’t safe for you to drive?

Neither of these facts on their own is enough to save you from a DUI conviction. Notice that New Jersey’s DUI law makes it illegal to “operate” a motor vehicle while intoxicated or with a BAC of 0.08 percent or above. The New Jersey courts have interpreted “operate” to mean much more than driving, and you could very easily face a conviction if you admit to being behind the wheel of a stationary vehicle.

8. “There Was an Emergency and I Had To Drive.”

Technically, in some circumstances, an emergency can serve as a defense to DUI. But, just like questioning your BAC reading, simply saying that there was an emergency isn’t going to cut it. If you believe that you have a valid emergency defense, you will need evidence to prove it, and you will need to be certain that the circumstances at hand justified your decision to drive drunk under New Jersey law.

9. “My BAC Was High Because I Ate a Breath Mint.”

This “defense” presents similar issues to some of the other ones we’ve discussed. While it is possible for a breath mint to trigger a “false positive,” you cannot expect to show up in court, tell the judge you were trying to freshen up just before the police pulled you over, and then expect to go home with your DUI charge dismissed.

10. “I Was On Private Property.”

Nothing in New Jersey’s DUI statute says you need to be on public roads in order to be guilty of DUI. If the police approached your vehicle in a private parking lot or stopped you in a private neighborhood, prosecutors can use your arrest (and perhaps your implicit admission) to secure a conviction in court.  

Schedule a Free Consultation with Morristown DUI Lawyer Scott Gorman

While these are all flawed defense strategies, there are several valid defenses to DUI charges under New Jersey law. To find out what defenses you can assert in your case, call 973-796-3800 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation with Morristown DUI lawyer Scott Gorman.

Published in Categories: DUI / DWI