NJ Woman Arrested For DUI and Forcibly Catheterized Settles Lawsuit for $140,000 After Contracting MRSA

Tumbler glass with whiskey and a car key

Earlier this month, a New Jersey woman settled a lawsuit against Ocean City, individual Ocean City police officers, and other defendants after claiming that she contracted a disease because police officers conducted a forced urine sampling procedure to see if she had been driving drunk. Law enforcement must first obtain a driver’s consent before taking a blood or urine sample. If consent is not given, officials can legally obtain a warrant from a judge to get a driver’s urine sample if they have probable cause to believe he or she has been driving drunk, but, in this case, the lawsuit alleged that the procedures used by the officers were unauthorized and improper.

Events Leading Up to the Arrest

Norma Powell’s original arrest dates back to July 11, 2012, when Ocean City police believed that she was intoxicated after driving her Nissan Sentra the wrong way through a toll lane and crashing into a concrete barrier wall on the Ocean City-Longport Bridge. A witness following the vehicle told police Powell had been driving erratically across the bridge and nearly hit a pedestrian.

Police subsequently pulled over Ms. Powell and conducted field sobriety tests to see if she was intoxicated. In New Jersey, these tests include walking on a line and turning, standing on one leg, and something called a horizontal gaze nystagmus test which measures your eyes for involuntary movements. Based on these tests, the police officers believed they had probable cause to administer a breathalyzer, but Ms. Powell could not complete the Breathalyzer test because she suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Police then took her to a hospital.

The Allegedly Improper Urine and Blood Testing in this Case

At this point, Ms. Powell alleges that the officers’ actions were unauthorized, improper, and/or illegal, because they asked hospital staff to draw her blood and obtain a urine sample without her consent and without a warrant. If a driver does not agree to provide a urine or blood sample, government officials are legally required to obtain a warrant before getting such a sample.

The process used to obtain Ms. Powell’s urine sample is called catheterization. The lawsuit claims that the improper catheterization caused Ms. Powell to contract MRSA, a serious bacterial infection. This prompted her to file a federal lawsuit with the U.S. District Court against Ocean City, Sgt. Daniel Dubbs, Shore Medical Center, and two hospital employees: Kathryn Page, a registered nurse, and Jessica Ruiz, an advanced practice nurse in July of 2014. Earlier this month, it was reported that Ms. Powell dropped the case against all of the defendants in exchange for a settlement of $140,000. A city representative has declined to comment on the settlement.

When the Police Can Test You in New Jersey, and When They Cannot

In New Jersey, as a condition of receiving your driver’s license, you are required to provide a breath sample to a police officer if the officer has probable cause to believe you have been driving while intoxicated. This is known as “implied consent.” If you refuse to take the test, you are subject to punishment including a loss of driving privileges, fines, and jail time based on a charge for Refusal to Provide a Breath Sample, N.J.S.A. 39:4-50.2.

However, New Jersey law does not require that a driver provide blood or urine samples. Police officers may request blood and urine testing when a breathalyze test cannot be used – for instance, due to the driver’s health condition, an injury, or the unavailability of a breathalyzer machine. Breathalyzer machines also can only test for blood alcohol content, and cannot measure intoxication due to drugs or other substances. A driver has the right to refuse to participate in testing.

If you are not comfortable with providing a urine or blood sample, you should refuse to give consent to such testing. If a driver refuses, the police must obtain a search warrant from a Judge, based upon probable cause that the driving is driving while intoxicated and if granted, the police can then force a driver to give blood or urine for testing. If a warrant is issued, then you have to comply.

If you or someone you know has been arrested on any charges related to driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you should consult an experienced attorney immediately. A knowledgeable DUI/DWI lawyer will be able to review you case, see if the actions taken by the government were authorized or proper, and explain what consequences you are facing in your specific situation.

New Jersey Drunk Driving Attorney Edward M. Janzekovich Can Help Drivers Facing DUI / DWI Charges

A charge for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol can result in serious and complicated penalties that affect you and your loved ones. Defending drivers charged with DWI / DUI can also involve complicated evidentiary issues. A knowledgeable attorney will know how to review the case. An experienced DUI attorney can make all the difference. To speak with an experienced New Jersey DWI lawyer about your situation, call us at 732-257-1137 or contact us online today. We serve clients throughout the state of New Jersey.

New Study Ranks New Jersey Fourth for Lowest Drunk Driving Incidents in the US

empty beer bottle and car key behind bars

A recently published report ranking all 50 US states with regard to the number and severity of drunk driving incidents per capita just listed New Jersey fourth lowest overall for the year the data was collected. Although New Jersey is one of the most densely populated states, and has the 11th largest population in the country, the data is based on the average number of incidents per person. The only states with a better ranking are New York (#1), Massachusetts (#2), and Illinois (#3).

According to the same report released by BackgroundChecks.org, New Jersey also experienced a 31.1% decrease in DUI incidents since the previous year. Although it is not clear what the cause is for the drastic reduction in DWI numbers, one of the likely contributing factors is the increased attention to drunk driving prevention and DUI enforcement by police departments across the state. This means that, if you are driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs in New Jersey, you are more likely than ever to be caught and/or convicted of drunk driving.

How the Rankings Were Decided

The DUI report used multiple sources of data in its rankings including statistics from the Department of Transportation (DOT), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), organizations that collect and aggregate state data. Researchers then created a formula that accounted for the number of DUI incidents including:

  • The number of deaths directly attributable to DUIs,
  • DUI arrests per 100,000 people, and
  • Self-reported drunk driving

A weighted formula was then applied to the data that considered the number of drunk driving incidents and the severity of each incident in order to give a final ranking to each state.

Other Rankings and Data

According to the report, the findings for New Jersey included:

    111 deaths directly attributable to DUIs in New Jersey for 2015

    .20% of all traffic deaths in 2015

    31.1% decrease in incidents from the previous year

    1.24 DUI deaths per 100,000 people

    22,201 total DUI arrests

    248 DUI arrests per 100,000 people

    1.4% of adults who reported drinking too much before driving for 2014

While any number of DUI-related deaths is too many, New Jersey’s rate of 1.24 DUI-related deaths per 100,000 people was the lowest rate of any state in the nation. Between 2003-2012 alone, the CDC reported that 1,816 people were killed in crashes involving a drunk driver in New Jersey. Of those deaths, most were between the ages of 21 and 34.

New York ranked #1 overall with 1.58 DUI-related deaths per 100,000 people, but only 147 DUI arrests per 100,000 people.

The States with the Worst DUI-related Problems are Wyoming (#1), North Dakota (#2), and South Dakota (#3). South Dakota reported 844 DUI arrests per 100,000 people, compared to 838 for North Dakota, and 539 for Wyoming. However, Wyoming also reported the highest number of DUI deaths per capita at 9.56 deaths caused by drunk driving per 100,000 people.

What the Data Means if You Drink and Drive

Make no mistake about it- although the report ranks New Jersey in the top 5 best states for drunk driving incidents, this actually could mean that New Jersey law enforcement officials take DUIs/DWIs even more seriously. This is backed-up by the fact that there was a 31.1% decrease in incidents from the previous year.

Remember, to be considered intoxicated under New Jersey law, drivers only need to have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08%. For some drivers, one drink is enough to reach this level. If a driver is found impaired at any time while operating a motor vehicle, the penalties will be severe, including significant fines, loss of driving privileges, and even jail time.

At the end of the day, one drink can mean the difference between driving legally and being convicted of drunk driving – which might mean losing the ability to provide for your family or loved ones. If you or someone you know is charged with driving while intoxicated, we recommend you seek the advice of an experienced DWI attorney immediately. An experienced drunk driving lawyer will be able to take the time, sit down with you and review your case, and explain what consequences you are facing in your specific situation. If you go to court, an experienced lawyer can help argue on your behalf to get you the best result possible.

New Jersey DWI Lawyer Edward M. Janzekovich Can Help Drivers Facing DUI/DWI Charges

New Jersey law enforcement officials take drunk driving extremely seriously. If you or someone you know is charged with a DUI or DWI, it is extremely important that you have someone on your side who will take your defense just as seriously. An experienced DUI attorney can make all the difference. To speak with an experienced New Jersey DWI lawyer about your situation, call us at 732-257-1137 or contact us online today. We serve clients throughout the state of New Jersey.

New Jersey Drunk Driving Attorney Discusses Prom Season, Graduation, Summer, and the Extreme Consequences of Underage Drinking

New Jersey Drunk Driving AttorneyProm season and graduation season are here and the New Jersey police are taking underage drinking seriously this year. With prom underway, graduation nearing, and the excitement of summer vacation and college freedom looming, it’s not consider the dangers associated with this behavior, drinking alcohol before the age of 21 is illegal in the Garden State. But as with many laws, there will always be those who decide to risk it, and many teens don’t always think before taking every action.

With this in mind, police departments across the state are gearing up to ensure the safety of high school students during these annual occasions. This includes generally being on high alert for young drivers, as well as DWI checkpoints. For example, the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Crash Investigations Unit is setting up DUI/DWI checkpoints at random that will pop up from now through the end of June. Additionally, law enforcement will be on the lookout for underage drinkers at places like the Jersey Shore, which are especially popular amongst teens at this time of year while off from school.

At the same time, we at the Edward M. Janzekovich law blog are also aware of the serious consequences associated with drinking and driving, especially for drivers who are underage. For that reason, we always recommend that anyone who is charged with driving while intoxicated consult with an experienced New Jersey DWI and drug DUI defense attorney, who has the knowledge and motivation to help.

New Jersey’s Zero-Tolerance Policy

New Jersey takes underage drinking very seriously. Indeed, if you are found driving under the influence of alcohol on prom night, you can expect a zero-tolerance policy. In New Jersey, the legal definition of intoxication for an underage driver is a blood alcohol level of.01%. A teen driver can be prosecuted even if his alcohol level is below the .08% legal limit allowed for adult drivers.

Part of the reason for this increased enforcement is because vehicle accidents are the number one cause of death for young people aged 12 to 19. In particular, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, approximately 1,000 youth under age 21 die each year in preventable tragedies while celebrating their high school proms and graduations. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the months of April through June are some of the most dangerous times of the year for teens, with nearly one-third of alcohol-related teen motor vehicle deaths occurring between these months.

Therefore, the State of New Jersey is looking to combat these numbers by escalating police presence of DUI checkpoints from now through the end of June, and until the end of summer at places like the shore.

Legal Consequences of Underage Drinking and Driving

Even if you are underage and it is your first offense, a DWI conviction could mean the loss of your license for a minimum of 30 days and a maximum of 90 days. You may also be sentenced to community service for a minimum of 15 days and a maximum of 30 days. Persons below the age of 21 convicted of DUI in New Jersey will also be required to undertake a highway safety program or pay fees and penalties as prescribed by the Intoxicated Driver Resource Center. Additionally, your car will be impounded, making it difficult to get to school or work. You may also face insurance rate increases and legal fees that cost thousands of dollars to resolve.

Not to mention, a DUI/DWI conviction will go on your record. Unfortunately, many teens don’t grasp the seriousness of this offense. They don’t realize that you may be required to disclose it on college applications, future job applications and even for financial aid requests. A drunk driving conviction could also make you permanently ineligible for certain jobs in the future.

If you decided to drink and drive before the age of 21, it may seem like a small decision at the time, but the consequences of a DUI conviction can last a lifetime.

New Jersey Drunk Driving Lawyer Edward M. Janzekovich Defends Underage Drivers Accused of Driving While Intoxicated

If you, your child, or anyone else has been charged with underage drinking, it is extremely important to contact an experienced DUI/DWI attorney who can answer all your questions and help defend you against potentially life-altering consequences. You do not need to face these battles alone. A knowledgeable drunk driving lawyer can review the evidence against you and present the best case in your defense. A good DUI attorney can make all the difference. To speak with an experienced New Jersey DWI lawyer about your situation, call us at 732-257-1137 or contact us online today. We serve clients throughout the state of New Jersey.

Breathalyzer Calibration Issues and Challenging DUI Evidence

In recent weeks, the Edward M. Janzekovich Law Blog has covered developments in the case of falsified calibration records for New Jersey’s only official breathalyzer machines – the Alcotest 7110 Mk-III. Questions of false DUI convictions based on unreliable Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) evidence were raised after it came to light that state police Sergeant Marc Dennis may have falsely certified that he calibrated Alcotest devices at various police departments throughout multiple counties. He subsequently received charges for fourth-degree falsifying records and third-degree tampering with records.

Now, it turns out that New Jersey’s case is not an isolated incident. Part way across the country, in Gilpin County, Colorado, a defense attorney is making claims against that state under similar circumstances. The challenges in New Jersey and Colorado, as well as challenges to the reliability of Alcotest results in other states like Massachusetts, demonstrate how important it is to speak with an experienced drunk driving lawyer every time you or someone you know is charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Evidence cannot always be taken at face value, and a knowledgeable attorney will know where to look and how to challenge the case being brought against you.

Forgery and a Challenge to Colorado’s Breathalyzer Program

In defending his client, a Colorado attorney recently discovered evidence that could affect the breathalyzer program in that state. Like in New Jersey, Colorado requires that its breathalyzers be regularly calibrated to ensure that they are accurate. A former Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment lab worker has made statements that his signature was forged on important state documents used to certify breathalyzer testing. This means that someone else was using his name to sign off that calibration was performed or performed in a specific way. It is unknown if the tests were ever even performed.

The following photographs, comparing real and forged signatures, were used to support the claims, and former co-workers of the employee have testified that they used his name to sign documents.

Forged Breathalyzer Calibration

The same state worker has also admitted to putting his signature on other forms, to authenticate that calibration tests had occurred, even though he had not seen the tests performed. Other evidence uncovered during this process shows that some of the signatures on calibration certifying documents belong to employees who were not even working at the time their signatures were used.

If the judge in this case is willing to dismiss the DUI evidence based on the falsified breathalyzer calibration documents, it could bring into question many breathalyzer results used in Colorado courts over the last four years.

Why Calibration Records are Important

As a driver in New Jersey, if you are charged with drunk driving, one of the primary pieces of evidence the state may use to try and convict you is BAC evidence based on a breathalyzer test. In some circumstances, this is the only admissible evidence against you and, without it, the prosecution may be forced to dismiss its entire case.
BAC and breathalyzer evidence is also based on science. In the 2008 case of State v. Chun, the New Jersey Supreme Court found that, for BAC evidence to be admissible, both the breath samples and the testing equipment must adhere to stringent guidelines to be considered scientifically reliable as a matter of law.

If the law requires that the government calibrate its equipment in a specific way, it means failing to properly calibrate the machines can cause them to be inaccurate. Even if the inaccuracy is small, that could make a big difference for the thousands of people who are tested on the equipment – some of whom may be found guilty by a very slight margin. For instance, a BAC of .08% is evidence of drunk driving, while a .079% is not.

An experienced DUI attorney makes it his job to find false DUI evidence or falsified DUI records. Without reliable testing, innocent people could be convicted. At the same time, the government should want BAC evidence to be reliable, so that proper convictions are not based on fraudulent evidence. If you or someone you know is charged for driving while intoxicated, a good lawyer will review all the evidence and may even be able to have the case dismissed against you completely.

New Jersey Drunk Driving Lawyer Edward M. Janzekovich Will Work to Defend You

If you or someone you know is charged for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the government must present clear and convincing evidence that you were driving while intoxicated. A knowledgeable drunk driving attorney will know how to review this evidence and present the best defense in the case. An experienced DWI/DUI attorney can make all the difference. To speak with an experienced New Jersey DWI lawyer about your situation, call us at 732-257-1137 or contact us online today. We serve clients throughout the state of New Jersey.

New Jersey DWI Attorney Discusses License Suspension Rules When Your Case is Being Appealed

Man Handing a Police Officer his License

If you are arrested and charged for a DUI or DWI, you should consult an attorney as soon as you can. An experienced drunk driving lawyer will be able to review your case, request evidence that may be time sensitive, explain to you the penalties you may be facing, and help fight the charges against you even get the charges dismissed completely.

If you have already been convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, an attorney can still help. Although it may feel like your case is already over, an attorney may still be able to have your sentence changed or have the charges against you dismissed by filing an appeal – especially, if the municipal court committed a miscarriage of justice, meaning it did something wrong or against the rules.

Importantly, one of the most difficult penalties faced by convicted drivers is the loss of driving privileges that can cause you to miss work and not be able to provide for your family or loved ones. While your case is being appealed, an attorney can argue on your behalf so that you do not lose your license, while you are waiting to see if your conviction is overturned.

Loss of Driving Privileges

The first time you are convicted of drunk driving, you can have your license suspended for either 3 months (if your blood alcohol content is between .08% and .09%) or 7 to 12 months (if your blood alcohol content is .10% or greater). If this is the first offense, a judge has a lot of flexibility in deciding how long to suspend a driver’s license, and other factors can increase the punishment, such as if the violation occurred in a school zone or caused an injury. For a second offense, the law requires you to lose your license for 2 years or longer, while you can lose your license for 10 years or more on a third conviction for DUI/DWI.

How Appeals Work

The majority of DUI/DWI convictions occur in Municipal Court. If you are appealing your initial conviction in the Municipal Court, you are asking to have a higher court, the Law Division in your county, review the lower court proceedings to make sure that there is no miscarriage of justice. The Law Division can reverse the conviction or affirm it. If it is affirmed, you may have the opportunity to appeal the case again to the Appellate Division of New Jersey or even the New Jersey Supreme Court.

Postponing License Suspension on Appeal

Last month, the New Jersey Supreme Court affirmed certain guidelines that can help drivers appealing their drunk driving convictions.

Specifically, if you are convicted, the Court allows you to have the period of time you are losing your license suspended while you request to have a higher court review your case.

Postponing, or “staying,” your license suspension does not happen automatically, but if you make an application to the Law Division to stay your license suspension pending your first appeal, the Court should presumptively grant the request. The guidelines, however, provide that you will most likely not be able to stay your period of license suspension if you appeal from the Law Division to the Appellate Division or higher court. If all the higher courts affirm your conviction, you will then be required to carry out the period of license suspension.

The Courts will also look at a number of factors to determine if you are entitled to a stay of your license suspension. The government or prosecutor may argue to the court that you should lose your license immediately if you present a serious threat to the safety of any person or the community. The Court will also look at your entire criminal past and history of motor vehicle offenses, and it may limit your license while the appeal is pending. For instance, the Court may be able to restrict when you drive your car – to or from work only – or require you have an ignition interlock device installed on the vehicle.

Finally, if this is not your first conviction for driving under the influence, the Court may be less likely to grant your request for a stay.

New Jersey Drunk Driving Attorney Edward M. Janzekovich Can Help If You’ve Been Charged or Convicted of DUI/DWI

Losing your license because you have been driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs can be devastating. If you or someone you know is charged for any DUI/DWI crime, it is extremely important to contact an experienced attorney who can explain what rights you have in your specific situation. If you are charged with drunk driving or driving under the influence of any substance in New Jersey, an experienced lawyer can make all the difference. To speak with an experienced New Jersey DWI lawyer about your situation, call us at 732-257-1137 or contact us online today. We serve clients throughout the state of New Jersey.

New Jersey DUI Attorney Discusses the Field Sobriety Vision Test, Also Known as the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus TestIf you are pulled over and arrested for DWI in New Jersey, the police have a few options for proving that you were driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Two of the things that police officers may do is (1) conduct a field sobriety test, or (2) use an official breathalyzer test, which is meant to determine scientifically if your blood alcohol content (BAC) is over the legal limit of .08%. Because the government is required to adhere to specific and complicated guidelines for administering and maintaining BAC tests and records, it is important that you retain an experienced attorney if you are ever arrested for a DUI. A knowledgeable DUI/DWI attorney will be able to review the records and may be able to have the BAC evidence thrown out so that it cannot be used against you.

If the BAC evidence is thrown out, or otherwise compromised or excluded, then the government will be required to rely on other evidence to prove that you were driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, such as the field sobriety test. A police officer’s observations and notes regarding how a driver acts or appears, when combined with evidence of the officer’s experience in assessing impairment, can be used to convict a driver of operating a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test

In New Jersey, police officers may ask a driver to do a number of different exercises in an attempt to determine if the person is intoxicated, under the influence of any substances, or otherwise impaired, including standing on one leg, reciting the alphabet backwards, walking in a straight line, or following the police officer’s finger with the person’s eyes. Not all of the tests are admissible in court. The vision test, where a driver is asked to move his or her eyes from side to side, is considered scientifically reliable under the law. This is called the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test.

Nystagmus is a term to describe fast, uncontrollable movements of the eyes – sometimes also referred to as dancing eyes. Impairment due to alcohol and the use of certain drugs can cause involuntary nystagmus. Accordingly, in the 1970’s and 1980’s, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) performed studies to determine if the HGN could be used to reliably determine if a person was operating a car while intoxicated or impaired by drugs, and the studies found the HGN test is 77% accurate in determining whether a person has a 0.10 BAC or more.

What Police Officers Are Looking for When Performing the Test

Police officers are provided with some training in how to perform an HGN test, including what signs of impairment to look for. The guidelines suggest that a police officer is checking for equal pupil size and whether the eyes are jerking involuntarily from side to side while at rest or while tracking an object from side to side. Three specific “clues” that officers are trained to look for include:

  1. The lack of smooth movement from side to side – bouncing rather than rolling smoothly.
  2. Distinct and sustained nystagmus when the eyes are held at maximum deviation and held for a minimum of four seconds.
  3. Onset of nystagmus when the eyes have moved less than 45 degrees to the side.

How a Lawyer May Challenge the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test

Scientific and medical experts have concerns that the administration of the HGN test by police officers may be unreliable because these officers are not ophthalmologist, trained in the detection of eye movements and or eye pathologies. Some experts have also suggested that the NHTSA standards for performing the HGN test could lead to false results. One independent study concluded that, in a controlled laboratory test, police officers were wrong 41% of the time about whether a person with a .10% BAC experienced HGN.

Similarly, HGN can be caused by a number of other things, including injury, tiredness, illness, or medical conditions. In the case of Schultz v. State, a case from Maryland, the court recognized at least 38 medical conditions unrelated to alcohol that can cause HGN, including the flu, consumption of excessive amounts of caffeine, head trauma, some prescription drugs, and exposure to certain chemicals or toxins.

Because a police officer is looking at your behavior, appearance, and how you perform on these tests, your performance on any field sobriety test, as well as your ability to speak to the police officer and answer questions, can help in your defense against a DUI/DWI conviction. At the end of the day, these tests are not perfect and subject to human error. For that reason, it is important to always consult an experienced lawyer. A DUI attorney may be able to fight the charges against you or have the charges dismissed completely.

New Jersey DUI/DWI Attorney Edward M. Janzekovich Can Help if You Are Arrested for Drunk Driving

An arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs can have life-changing consequences for any driver. Such a charge, and possible trial, can also be extremely complicated, especially when specific tests or scientific evidence is involved. If you are charged with drunk driving or driving under the influence of any substance in New Jersey, an experienced DWI/DUI attorney can make all the difference. To speak with an experienced New Jersey DWI lawyer about your situation, call us at 732-257-1137 or contact us online today. We serve clients throughout the state of New Jersey.

New Jersey DWI Attorney Discusses Possible Changes to the 0.08% Blood Alcohol Content Limit

Blood Alcohol Content LimitFor nearly two decades, the state of New Jersey has had a legal blood alcohol content (BAC) limit of .08%. That means that if you are pulled over in this state and suspected of drunk driving, and you take a properly administered breathalyzer test that determines you had a BAC reading of over .08%, you can be found guilty of drunk driving.

The BAC legal limit was lowered from .10% to .08% in every state across the nation nearly a decade ago (Delaware was the last state to adopt the .08% standard in 2004), after the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) made recommendations that the change could save lives. In 1998, a new Federal incentive grant was created to encourage states to adopt the .08 BAC illegal per se level, and, in 2000, Congress adopted .08 BAC as the national illegal limit for impaired driving.

Now, the NTSB is issuing new recommendations that the .08% BAC limit should be lowered again to .05% – and there are a few states that may be willing to follow suit, including New Jersey.

Utah to Become the First State with a .05% BAC Limit

Earlier this month, Utah Governor Gary Herbert signed the state bill that would lower the legal BAC limit to .05%, stressing repeatedly that it was an issue of public safety. The law would take effect in that state at the end of 2018. The law faced opposition from the local restaurant and tourism industry, who feared that the new law would make drivers irrationally afraid of consuming alcohol on business premises. However, the state is basing its decision on a number of studies that show a lower BAC limit could save lives, as well as precedent set by most countries in Europe.

Until then, the state plans to address some of the complications that could arise with lowering the

Why the NTSB Wants to Lower the BAC Limit

The NTSB is recommending that all states change their laws to lower the blood alcohol limit from .08% to .05% based on the belief that it will save lives and make the roads safer for everyone who drives on them. The NTSB actually made these same recommendations to congress in 2013, but the recommendations were rejected at that time.

The NTSB is renewing its push to change the law, pointing to studies that say lowering the legal limit will result in 500 to 800 lives saved every year across the country, based on data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that shows the average 160-pound male man will have impaired coordination and difficulty steering with a BAC of .05%. That same man would be at the .05% limit if he only drink two or three drinks in an hour, as opposed to four alcoholic beverages to reach the .08% level.

What This Could Mean for You

Utah is not a complete outlier in trying to lower the legal BAC limit. Several states have laws that lower the BAC legal limit for second or third time DWI/DUI offenders, and several New Jersey publications discussed the issue when the NTSB released its recommendations last year.

If the BAC limit is lowered in this state, it could mean that the average driver would be more easily subject to arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol. For instance, a 120-pound person may be near or at the .05% limit after consuming only one drink – such as a glass of wine with dinner.

At the same time, the law would be much harder to enforce, because a person may not be as visibly intoxicated at the .05% level, and a police officer may have a harder time deciding whether or not to bring a driver back to the police station to administer a blood alcohol test.

Regardless of whether or not the law does change, we at the Edward M. Janzekovich Law Blog always recommend that you avoid drinking and driving. Depending on who you are, what you’ve had to eat that day, and/or what you are drinking, one drink can be enough to push your BAC over the legal limit, whether that limit is .05% or .08% or even .10%. At the same time, a BAC reading is not always perfect, and there may be legitimate reasons to challenge your arrest or charges for driving while intoxicated. If you or someone you know is pulled over or charged with drunk driving, the penalties can be extremely severe. For that reason, it is important to always consult an experienced lawyer. A DUI attorney may be able to fight the charges against you or have the charges dismissed completely.

New Jersey Drunk Driving Attorney Edward M. Janzekovich Can Help if You Are Arrested for Drunk Driving

A DUI/DWI charge can have life-changing consequences for any driver. Such a charge, and possible trial on the charges, can also be extremely complicated, especially with the laws changing all the time. If you are charged with drunk driving or driving under the influence of any substance in New Jersey, an experienced DWI/DUI attorney can make all the difference. To speak with an experienced New Jersey DWI lawyer about your situation, call us at 732-257-1137 or contact us online today. We serve clients throughout the state of New Jersey.

New York Jets Tight End Austin Seferian-Jenkins Reaches Plea Deal in DUI Case

Close up shot of an alcohol tester

Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins lost his job last September with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after he was arrested for driving while intoxicated. He was initially stopped for speeding, doing 75-80 mph in a 55 mph zone, weaving back and forth, and making an improper lane change. He was also charged for violating a Florida law that required that he have an ignition interlock device on his vehicle, after he plead guilty to a DUI charge he received while in college.

Because Seferian-Jenkins was arrested and convicted in the State of Florida, he was recently able to reach a plea deal in his case. He originally pled not guilty to the DUI/DWI charges. He amended his plea to no contest to a reckless driving charge. This option would not have been available if the same circumstances had occurred in New Jersey. In fact, a lot of things would have been different.

No Plea Deals and Mandatory Sentencing in New Jersey

Unlike Florida, the law in this State does not permit a defendant in a drunk driving case to plea bargain or enter into a plea arrangement with the police, the prosecutor, the court, or any other person on behalf of the state in order to receive a reduced sentence. In Florida, Seferian-Jenkins was permitted to enter a plea of no contest to reckless driving and, in exchange, he received 1 year of probation and 50 hours of community service. He also has to attend DUI school and pay a $500 fine.

If Seferian-Jenkins had been pulled over and convicted in the state of New Jersey, he would have received mandatory jail time from 2 to 90 days. This is because Seferian-Jenkins’ 2016 DUI would have been considered a second offense, and a second DUI in New Jersey results in a mandatory jail sentence. As a second offense, his driver’s license would also have been taken away for 2 years. The length of time for suspending the license is specifically required by law, although it can be even longer if the second offense occurred while the driver had a suspended license or if the driver was operating the vehicle in a school zone. Finally, because this was a second offense, Seferian-Jenkins would have been required to pay from $500-1000 in fines, plus mandatory court fees of $389 or more.

Moreover, none of these punishments include any potential additional sentence Seferian-Jenkins would have received because he was also in violation of his ignition interlock device restriction. In New Jersey, many drivers convicted of DUI, including some first time offenders, are required to install and maintain an ignition interlock device on their vehicle, and those drivers can receive heavy penalties for violating this law.

How an Attorney Can Help

The mandatory jail time, period of license suspension, and fines would have been even greater for Seferian-Jenkins if this had been a third or greater offense – and the punishments under the law cannot be negotiated in this state. Moreover, one of the worst consequences of getting convicted for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is the fact that it can take away a defendant’s ability to drive and work or otherwise care for his family or loved ones.

For that reason, you should always consult an experienced DUI/DWI attorney if you or someone you know has been charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. An attorney will be able to explain your situation, help you prepare the best defense in your case, and may be able to have the charges against you dismissed completely. Moreover, there are still some ways that an attorney may be able to work around the plea bargaining restrictions and help improve the circumstances of your case, such as helping you take advantage of the step-down provision that can help reduce the penalties for a second or greater offense.

New Jersey Drunk Driving Attorney Edward M. Janzekovich Is Ready to Defend the Charges Against You

A DUI/DWI conviction means serious penalties that will affect you and your loved ones. For that reason, it is important to consult a drunk driving lawyer who knows how to help. If you or someone you know is charged with drunk driving or driving under the influence of any substance in New Jersey, an experienced DWI/DUI attorney will know the best way to help and can make all the difference. To speak with an experienced New Jersey DWI lawyer about your situation, call us at 732-257-1137 or contact us online today. We serve clients throughout the state of New Jersey.

Heightened DUI Enforcement Around St. Patrick’s Day

St Patrick's Day green beer with shamrock

For the next two weeks, revelers and party-goers across the state will be celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, which is on Friday, March 17, 2017 this year. Similarly, for the next two weeks – but especially on the weekends – police officers and law enforcement officials across the state will also be on heightened alert for anyone who might be on the roads driving drunk or under the influence of any impairments.

For that reason, we at the Law Office of Edward M. Janzekovich would like to remind you to be extra careful about driving during this time period, especially if you’ve been out at bars, attended any parties, or had anything to drink. You should exercise caution to keep yourself, your loved ones, and others safe – because any decision to get behind the wheel drunk could result in serious injuries or worse.

Moreover, even if you think you are capable of driving, underestimating your blood alcohol tolerance by the smallest margin can be the difference between driving legally and facing serious consequences. In fact, even if you operate your vehicle perfectly, you may still be stopped at a random police check point. Being pulled over with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of .08% or more can result in the loss of driving privileges, jail time, and the inability to provide for your family or loved ones.

Police Checkpoints and Stops in the Month of March

Around any holiday, it is common for local police departments to set up unannounced police checkpoints around main roads or near bars or restaurants, in order to randomly check drivers and monitor for anyone who may be driving while intoxicated. However, the police are aware that St. Patrick’s Day, especially, can involve large amounts of drinking. For that reason, last year, the State Police even created sobriety checkpoints on the New Jersey Turnpike on the Saturday leading up to St. Paddy’s Day.

While the State Police acknowledged that the holiday is about “fun in the streets, socializing with your closest friends, and rejoicing in celebration,” they also pointed out that “people who choose to drive after drinking already know how expensive, life-changing, and deadly such a decision can be.” The public service announcement further encouraged other drivers to dial a special hotline or call a police station to report aggressive, intoxicated, or questionable drivers.

This is not an issue limited to New Jersey, either. For the next two weeks, police officers across the state and the country will be on the look-out for any signs or drunk driving. In fact, statistics from Maryland and New York showed that hundreds of drivers were arrested on or around the holiday last year, while 41% of fatal crashes on St. Paddy’s day last year were alcohol related. Therefore, if you plan to go out and celebrate during March, you should take a taxi, call an Uber, or pick a designated driver. Otherwise, even if you don’t get in an accident and hurt yourself or others, you run the risk of getting arrested for drunk driving every time you choose to have even one drink and get behind the wheel.

If You Are Arrested or Charged with DUI/DWI, An Experienced Attorney Can Help

Even if you think you did not do anything wrong while driving, a BAC of .08% or higher in this state is a per se violation – which means that you can be convicted of drunk driving even if you pass every field sobriety test at a DUI checkpoint and did not do anything wrong in the operation of your vehicle. There are some ways to challenge breathalyzer evidence, but it is extremely complicated. For that reason, if you or someone you know is arrested or charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or some other impairment, it is important to contact an attorney as soon as possible.

A knowledgeable and experienced drunk driving lawyer will be able to review the circumstances of your case, inform you of your rights and the possible consequences you may be facing, and help you present the best defense on your behalf. Depending on your situation, an experienced attorney may even be able to have the charges against you dismissed completely.

New Jersey DWI/ DUI Attorney Edward M. Janzekovich Knows How to Help if You Are Arrested and Charged with Drunk Driving

If you or someone you know is pulled over, arrested, or charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, it is extremely important to contact a knowledgeable attorney who can explain what consequences you are facing in your specific situation. If you go to court, an experienced lawyer will also argue on your behalf and may be able to have the charges against you dropped entirely. Having an experienced drunk driving lawyer can make all the difference. To speak with an experienced New Jersey DWI/DUI lawyer about your situation, call us at 732-257-1137 or contact us online today. We serve clients throughout the state of New Jersey.

New Jersey DUI Attorney Discusses Plea Bargaining in Drunk Driving Cases

Bargaining in Drunk Driving Cases

Generally speaking, the law in New Jersey does not permit a defendant in a drunk driving case to plea bargain or enter into a plea arrangement with the police, the prosecutor, the court, or any other person on behalf of the state when it comes to charges for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Therefore, if you are charged with DUI/DWI, and you were hoping to be able to plead guilty in order to have the charges changed or the penalties reduced, you may be out of luck. As with anything, however, that may not be the whole story.

While the New Jersey Supreme Court has long recognized the value of plea bargaining in order to make the administration of justice more effective, specific restrictions on plea bargaining were placed on defendants charged with violating N.J.S.A. 39:4-50, the state’s DWI/DUI law. Since State v. Hessen, the Courts ruled to take away a prosecutor or judge’s power to dismiss or downgrade drunk driving cases. For that reason, it is extremely important to consult an experienced drunk driving attorney if you or someone you know has been charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. An attorney will be able to explain your situation, help you prepare the best defense in your case, and may be able to have the charges against you dismissed completely. Moreover, there are still some ways that an attorney may be able to work around the plea bargaining restrictions and help improve the circumstances of your case.

An Attorney Can Still Help Have Your Case Dismissed

First, it is important to remember that the ban on plea bargaining in DUI/DWI cases does not mean that a court or prosecutor cannot decide to dismiss the charges against you completely. Municipal prosecutors have a legal and ethical obligation to ensure that justice is done in individual cases. This means that they should not prosecute a drunk driving case where the evidence cannot support the charges. Thus, an application by a municipal prosecutor to dismiss a drunk driving case or seek its downgrade to a different offense based upon evidentiary or proof problems does not constitute a plea arrangement under the rules.

For instance, as we have previously discussed in this blog, an experienced DUI/DWI lawyer may be able to have certain evidence excluded in your case – such as due to a problem in the way breathalyzer or blood alcohol content evidence was collected. This could result in the prosecutor deciding to downgrade or dismiss the charges for evidentiary reasons without plea bargaining.

Other Exceptions to the Plea Bargaining Ban

The rules forbidding plea bargaining cases also only apply to N.J.S.A. 39:4-50 charges. Therefore, an attorney can still help you have related charges merged or amended if you are being charged for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the same time. The rules permit the dismissal of traffic tickets, ordinance violations, and disorderly persons offenses that are companion to a drunk driving ticket. These charges are considered to be companion if they come out of the same set of facts and circumstances that led to the DUI/DWI incident.

While entering in this kind of plea bargain will not eliminate the penalties associated with a conviction for drunk driving, a defendant who pleads guilty to a drunk driving offense in exchange for the dismissal of companion offenses may often avoid many thousands of dollars in fines, mandatory jail terms, additional loss of license, and or significant consequences.

Finally, there are a number of other complicated situations wherein a defendant may be permitted to enter into a plea arrangement with the court. This includes when a defendant is charged with DUI and refusal to submit to a breathalyzer test, or when a defendant is charged with DWI while in a school zone. If you or someone you know is arrested for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, it is important that you contact an experienced lawyer immediately, so that you can understand and take advantage of certain laws that can lessen the penalties you must face.

New Jersey Drunk Driving Attorney Edward M. Janzekovich Will Negotiate and Argue on Your Behalf

DWI/DUI laws are often very complicated and the specific rules that affect each defendant can vary depending on the situation. If you or someone you know is charged with drunk driving or driving under the influence in New Jersey, knowing what your rights are can make all the difference. To speak with an experienced New Jersey DWI lawyer about your situation, call us at 732-257-1137 or contact us online today. We serve clients in Ocean County, Monmouth County, Mercer County, Middlesex County, Union County and Somerset County.