I was charged with DWI: Was there a Probable Cause for the Stop?

A police officer must have reason to believe that you committed a traffic infraction before executing a motor vehicle stop

Probable Cause for DWIDriving under the influence offenses is some of the most vigorously prosecuted in the state of New Jersey, with associated consequences that can significantly disrupt the lives of those convicted. When faced with a charge for driving while intoxicated or driving under the influence of drugs, it is critical to understand your rights. In this series of articles, I will examine each component of a New Jersey DWI case, from the initial stop to the presentation of evidence and potential penalties. By critically evaluating police protocol and the legal process for adjudicating these cases, we can identify oversights and errors that may, in fact, lead to the dismissal of the charges altogether.

The first question that must be asked in a DWI case is: was there probable cause for the stop? Probable cause is an essential component of the State’s case and without it, the charges cannot be effectively proven in a court of law. So, what is the probable cause in a DWI case? It is defined as the “articulable and reasonable suspicion” that a motor vehicle violation has been committed. In other words, a police officer must have reason to believe that you committed a traffic infraction before executing a motor vehicle stop. These offenses may include:

  • Improper Turn
  • Speeding
  • Reckless Driving
  • Careless Driving
  • Failure to Maintain Lane
  • Leaving the Scene of an Accident
  • Talking on a Cell Phone

The other valid precedent for a DWI stop involves a sobriety checkpoint, which we will address in more detail in a later article. However, for the purposes of this discussion, it is important to note that if the field sobriety checkpoint is not conducted in accordance with State law, any charges that result from the stop cannot be considered legitimate in court.

So, what does all of this mean? Essentially, a thorough examination of the probable cause for your stop may yield a potential hole in the State’s case. If there is no evidence to support that you committed a motor vehicle violation, such as a radar reading to indicate that you were speeding, then any resulting charges are considered “fruit of the poisonous tree.” This precedential doctrine holds that evidence gathered with the assistance of illegally obtained information must be excluded from the trial. In other words, the results of an unlawful stop cannot be used against you.

Contact an Experienced Linden DWI Defense Attorney Today

At The Law Offices of Edward S. Cooper, Esq., we believe that everyone is entitled to due process whether they are facing felony criminal charges, disorderly persons offenses, or traffic violations. Our firm has been protecting the legal rights of our clients in the face of evidence tampering for nearly three decades in local New Jersey communities including Linden, Union, Westfield, Scotch Plains, Elizabeth, Plainfield, and all of Union County. You do not need to fight this legal battle alone.

A comprehensive evaluation of the circumstances of your case may yield information that allows us to call into question the probable cause for the initial motor vehicle stop and ultimately, to have the charges against you dismissed in their entirety.

Contact us online or give us a call through our Linden office by dialing (908) 481-4625 today for a confidential consultation with our qualified legal staff regarding your DWI or DUI charges and to learn more about how we can best serve your needs.