Former New York Giants Player’s DUI Arrest After Falling Asleep at the Wheel

Police car on the streetBarry Cofield is an Ex-New York Giants defensive lineman who was drafted in the 4th round of the 2006 NFL Draft.  Cofield went on to play five years with the team before leaving in free agency and spending 4 years with division rivals, the Washington Redskins, from 2011 to 2015.  In 2015, Cofield resigned with the Giants where he finished out his career.  He is well-known for the “taser” dance that he would perform after sacking the opposing quarterback.  Cofield also helped the Giants win a World Championship ring in Super Bowl XLII following the 2007 season.  Although named as a New York team, the Giants actually practice and play in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

On July 6, 2018, Cofield was arrested on charges of driving under the influence of heroin, as well as possession of heroin, assaulting an officer, eluding police, and resisting arrest.  Police body cam footage documented the harrowing arrest.  The 10-year NFL veteran recently pleaded no contest to some of the charges and will not be serving jail time.  Unfortunately, the arrest and sentencing occurred in Florida, where the laws are significantly different from the laws in New Jersey, and Cofield was able to plead to charges carrying a more lenient sentence.

Circumstances of the Arrest at Gunpoint

Barry Cofield’s arrest was actually quite an intense situation, as officers held the former NFL player at gunpoint and forced him out of his Cadillac Escalade prior to the arrest.

The entire ordeal began when Cofield fell asleep at the wheel.  Cofield was near Interstate 4 and Lake Mary Boulevard in Lake Mary, Fl. with his foot on the brake when he was discovered.  It is alleged that he remained stopped at the light while the light cycled or changed multiple times before police officers approached the vehicle and attempted to wake him or break his window.  One officer reported that his window would not break.  Subsequently, Cofield woke up and immediately stepped on the gas, refusing to stop at the direction of the officers.  After a pursuit or police chase, Cofield was ultimately stopped after ramming another vehicle and a police cruiser.

Finally, Cofield exited the vehicle and was ordered to the ground.  Accordingly, Cofield was charged with eluding police.  The entire ordeal was captured on body cam.

Officers noted that they smelled alcohol on his breath, but he refused a sobriety test.  Officers then found a substance in his vehicle that was later tested to be heroin.

Falling Asleep at the Wheel

Although Cofield’s arrest occurred in Florida, New Jersey laws also generally prohibit a driver from falling asleep at the wheel.  Whether the vehicle is parked and turned off, turned on with just the engine running in park, or stopped at a light with the driver’s foot on the brake, if a driver is found asleep in the car, there is a good chance police officers will attempt to arrest the driver for drunk driving.  The law, however, is much more complicated or nuanced.  Therefore, this should not automatically result in a conviction.

For this reason, if you or someone you know is charged with a DUI or DWI and the arrest involves sleeping, you should contact an experienced drunk driving lawyer as soon as possible.  The truth, which a police officer may not tell you, is that the State may have a difficult time proving by clear and convincing evidence that any sobriety, breathalyzer, or drug testing occurred within a reasonable period of time from when the vehicle was operated.  Pursuant to the case of State v. DiFrancisco, the charges may actually need to be dropped.

Barry Cofield’s Sentencing

Ultimately, Cofield pled no contest to the charges brought against him.  In New Jersey, there are different rules regarding pleas or plea bargaining than in Florida.  Cofield faced 12 months of probation, 50 hours of community service, random drug testing and a $500 fine for the DUI charges alone, but he was ultimately able to plead guilty only to the DUI charge and the possession charge.  He did not have to serve any jail time.  In New Jersey, it is likely that he would have faced even higher penalties, and he would have served time in jail.

Accordingly, if you are charged in New Jersey, it is even more important that you retain a good lawyer as soon as possible.

New Jersey Drugs and Alcohol Driving Lawyer Can Help if You’ve Been Charged

No matter the circumstances, if you’ve been charged with DUI or DWI in New Jersey, the best thing you can do is get a good lawyer as soon as possible.  You know someone who knows the law, knows the system, and knows the best way to help you within the specific circumstances of your case.  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.

What Is Implied Consent in New Jersey?

Implied-Consent-in-New-Jersey

Even if you’re not being pulled over for suspicion of drinking and driving, it’s not unusual for the police officer, in the first few moments of the traffic stop, to inquire if you have been drinking. If you admit that you have, or the officer has any other reasonable belief that you may be impaired, the officer will typically ask you to submit to a blood alcohol test. What are your rights? Can you refuse to take the test? What happens if you do?

Implied Consent in New Jersey

The legal doctrine of implied consent governs your rights, as well as the consequences, when you have been requested to provide a blood alcohol sample while driving. Under the principle of implied consent, the police officer technically does not have to obtain your permission or consent to test your blood alcohol content (BAC). The officer will not need to show that you affirmatively or verbally agreed to the test—because consent is implied, that will be assumed.

The officer may not force you to take the test, and cannot draw your blood involuntarily. However, the request for the BAC sample is more of an instruction/order than request for participation.

Under the theory of implied consent, by getting behind the wheel of a car, you impliedly agree to provide a blood alcohol test when a police officer (who has reasonable cause) requests one. If you refuse, you will automatically have your drivers license suspended for a minimum of 12 months (for a first offense). A second refusal will lead to a two year suspension and a third refusal will result in a 10 year suspension.

Contact Attorney Edward M. Janzekovich

To schedule a free initial consultation, contact my office online or call me at 732-257-1137. Evening and weekend consultations are available by appointment. I accept all major credit cards.

Yes, You Can Get Charged With DUI / DWI While Using CBD Oil

CBD OilMarijuana is a drug that comes from the cannabis plant – also referred to as weed or pot.  Marijuana is well-known for its psychoactive effects, due to a chemical compound that naturally occurs in the plant called tetrahydrocannabinol or THC.  Here, at the Edward M. Janzekovich law blog, we frequently discuss marijuana and driving, because if a police officer pulls you over and finds that you are impaired as the result of weed or pot, you can lose your license, be required to pay considerable fines, and even go to jail.

Nonetheless, as recreational and medicinal marijuana use increases, there has also been growing interest in another marijuana extract known as cannabidiol or CBD.   Some are calling CBD a “hot new product,” and with the increasing popularity of items like CBD oil, there has also been an increase in misinformation and rumors. Many people claim that that you can’t get high if you use CBD.  Based on this, others have suggested that you cannot get a DUI or DWI if you have been using CBD.  Today, we at the Edward M. Janzekovich law blog are going to take a more in-depth look at the buzz around CBD.

What is CBD?

There are approximately 483 known compounds in a marijuana plant.  THC is the main psychoactive component, meaning it is the main compound that gets users high.  CBD (which stands for Cannabidiol as stated) includes approximately 65 other compounds.

Since CBD should not include THC, pure CBD is marketed as non-intoxicating – meaning it should not get you high or make you impaired or stoned.  Instead, some people refer to CBD as the medical part of cannabis or the good part of cannabis, because it can provide pain relief and has anti-inflammatory effects. At the same time, it can also bring about a sense of relief or relaxation.

How Is CBD Oil Used?

CBD must be delivered with the help of a carrier oil, like grapeseed, coconut, or hemp oil.  Generally, anything that can incorporate oil can be combined with CBD oil, so it can be taken as drops, soft-gel capsules, tinctures, under-the-tongue sprays, used in cooking, or even absorbed through the skin as a lotion or cream.

Can CBD Get You High?  Can You Get a DUI or DWI?

CBD oil containing products should not get you high – but that does not mean that it won’t get you high.  In fact, there is no guarantee that a police officer will not charge you if you are pulled over after using a CBD product.  Here’s why:

  • First, there is no guarantee that your source of CBD is pure. Studies show that CBD works better when it is taken at the same time as THC, so it is possible that any product that provides CBD will include some amount of THC.
  • Second, even though pure CBD is marketed as non-intoxicating, all resources state that even the purest CBD oil will still contain trace amounts of THC. Consumed in a high enough quantity, CBD is known to cause users to fail a drug test.
  • Third, since CBD can cause persons to be more relaxed, calm, or comfortable, and since there is some amount of THC in CBD oil, using CBD oil can still make a person appear impaired or intoxicated.

Taken all together, if a police officer pulls you over after you have been using CBD oil, he or she may think you are intoxicated because of your relaxed appearance and possibly slowed reaction times – even if you aren’t impaired.  A subsequent blood or urine test might show positive for marijuana use.  If both of these pieces of evidence are presented, a Court may be convinced to convict you of driving while high, even though you weren’t intoxicated.

If you or someone you know has been charged as the result of CBD oil use, you will need an experienced marijuana driving defense attorney to represent you.  Only a lawyer familiar with these issues will be able to present the complicated evidence to refute the charges against you.  The reality is that the laws regarding marijuana remain flawed, and an experienced DUI attorney will be best suited to present the best defense possible in your case.

New Jersey Marijuana Driving Defense Lawyer Edward M. Janzekovich Can Help if You’ve Been Wrongly Accused

There are more and more marijuana prosecutions related to driving while high every day.  If you or someone you know is charged with driving while impaired or intoxicated, you need an attorney whose expertise is in the area of DUI and DWI defense.  A good lawyer can make all the difference.  To speak with an experienced New Jersey DUI 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.

Are Camera-Based Tickets Legal in New Jersey?

camera based tickets legalThey’re becoming popular across the United States. Law enforcement offices are setting up cameras at strategic points to catch motorist who violate the law. Some have built in radars and will take a picture of the vehicle’s license plate. The driver then gets an unpleasant surprise a few weeks later when a traffic citation arrives in the mail.

That won’t happen to you in New Jersey. As the law currently stands, cameras are prohibited from being used to issue ticket for speeding or running a red light. However, both New York and Pennsylvania allow some form of the practice.

It may seem like there’s not much you can do to challenge a traffic violation that’s been caught on tape. However, there are some pretty simple ways to fight this type of citation:

  • It’s unusual for a prosecutor or police officer to bring a video or picture of the traffic violation to court. If there’s no picture or video, there’s no evidence, other than the testimony of the police officer who viewed the video/picture. The failure to bring the video or picture will typically, in itself, be sufficient to have the charge dropped.
  • Furthermore, under the rules of evidence, a witness cannot testify to something he or she didn’t actually see. If the testimony is based entirely on what a third person saw, it’s known as “hearsay” and inadmissible in court. If the tape is brought to court and a police officer seeks to testify, you can object to the testimony as “hearsay,” because the officer didn’t see you commit any wrongful act. He or she is relying on the observations of a third party, i.e., the video camera.

Contact Attorney Edward M. Janzekovich

To schedule a free initial consultation, contact my office online or call me at 732-257-1137. Evening and weekend consultations are available by appointment. I accept all major credit cards.

Should You Challenge a Traffic Ticket in New Jersey?

What Are the Benefits of Fighting a Traffic Citation?

traffic ticket in new jerseyYou’ve been stopped by police in New Jersey and issued a ticket. Maybe you were speeding or failed to come to a complete stop. Maybe you made an illegal turn. If you’re like most people, you may feel like you have no recourse other than to show up and pay your fine. To the contrary, there can be a number of good reasons to fight the ticket.

You Might Save a Lot of Money

If you plead guilty, you’ll have to pay a fine, known as a “surcharge,” which can be anywhere from $100 to $1,000. And that’s for each infraction! If you are charged with multiple offenses— speeding, failure to use due caution, reckless driving—the costs can add up quickly. If you don’t pay in a timely manner, you could risk the seizure of assets to pay the fines.

You Might Avoid the Accumulation of Points on Your Driving Record

The state of New Jersey maintains a point system for all licensed motorists. You accumulate points for certain types of infractions. If you amass too many points in a given period—typically two years—you can risk the suspension of your driving privileges. You can have points removed after the fact, but it’s much easier to keep them from being added to your record. An experienced attorney may be able to negotiate an agreement with prosecutors to avoid or minimize points.

The Police Officer May Not Show at the Hearing

Under the U.S. Constitution, you have the right to question your accuser. If you challenge the ticket, the police officer must appear in court to answer your questions. Police officers cannot do this with every ticket they write. If the officer is a no show, your case will be dismissed.

Contact Attorney Edward M. Janzekovich

To schedule an appointment with an experienced New Jersey DUI defense attorney, contact my office online or call me at 732-257-1137. There is no cost or obligation for your first meeting. Evening and weekend consultations are available by appointment. I accept all major credit cards.

NJ Man Found Not Guilty of Driving While High Although Found with THC in His Blood

Blood testA recent New Jersey case demonstrated why it is so important to get a good DUI / DWI defense attorney if you or someone you know is ever charged with driving under the influence of marijuana.  A South Jersey man, Patrick Miller, was charged with driving while intoxicated in addition to two counts of vehicular homicide in a 2015 accident that took two lives.  Miller was subsequently tested and found to have THC in his blood.  THC is the active ingredient in marijuana.

Based on the results of the blood test, multiple charges were brought and Miller faced up to 20 years in state prison.  Prosecutors recommended a sentence of 12 years if he agreed to plead guilty.  Instead, Miller plead not guilty, sought legal counsel, and went to trial to fight the charges against him.  This past week, he was acquitted, meaning a jury of twelve of his peers agreed that he was not guilty.

The Accident

Patrick Miller’s accident was highlighted in the news after the 28-year-old handyman lost control of his pickup truck and struck a jogger and local teacher, Allison McGinnis.  Miller’s truck then struck a tree, flipped over, and killed his passenger, David Eldridge.

The Blood Test

Miller was airlifted from the crash.  Accordingly, he was given a blood test while receiving medical treatment – blood tests are very common when a driver who is suspected of DUI or DWI is injured.  Because a breathalyzer or breath test cannot be given to a seriously injured driver, police officers will often request a warrant and get a court-ordered blood test to determine if a driver is under the influence of alcohol or other intoxicants.

In this case, police officers administered a blood test to see if Miller was under the influence of any substances.  4 nanograms per milliliter of THC were found in Miller’s blood sample.  Accordingly, prosecutors blamed the accident on intoxication and decided to bring charges including Driving While Intoxicated and vehicular manslaughter, based on the theory that Miller drove his truck recklessly while intoxicated causing two deaths.

The Defense in the Case

Instead of accepting the plea deal, Miller chose to fight the charges against him.  The law requires the state to prove that a driver is actually intoxicated or impaired while operating a motor vehicle.  Experts were presented by both the prosecution and the defense to argue that the blood test results were unreliable in establishing intoxication.  In fact, Miller’s results – the THC reading of 4 nanograms per milliliter of blood – was below the level set as a standard in many of the states that have legal marijuana — 5 nanograms of THC concentration.

Furthermore, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has cautioned against using blood tests to determine cannabis impairment, and many lawyers and politicians are concerned that this arbitrary standard could lead to false accusations and flawed charges being brought against marijuana users.  One  of the major problems in prosecuting driving while high cases is that marijuana can remain in the blood stream long after a person is no longer impaired or under the influence.

In Miller’s case, other defenses included witness testimony that helped show that he was not driving erratically shortly before the accident, nor was he impaired while performing handyman work 20 minutes before the accident occurred.  Ultimately, a jury agreed with Miller and his attorney that there was not enough evidence to show that Miller was actually intoxicated or impaired while operating his vehicle.

New Jersey Marijuana Driving Defense Attorney Edward M. Janzekovich Can Defend You if You’re Charged

The consequences for driving while high are serious.  If you or someone you know is arrested, charged or convicted, an experienced attorney will know how to defend you in a court of law before a judge and jury.  Hiring the right attorney matters. A good 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.

The New Expungement Law in New Jersey

Expungement-Law-in-New-Jersey

New Provisions Went into Effect on October 1, 2018

Last December, outgoing New Jersey governor Chris Christie signed bill S-3307, enacting significant changes to the state’s expungement laws. Those changes went into effect at the beginning of October.

What is Expungement?

Under New Jersey law, an expungement officially “removes” and isolates all records filed with courts, correctional facilities, law enforcement agencies, juvenile justice agencies, criminal justice agencies or detention centers. That includes any information about your arrest or apprehension, any detention or incarceration, and all trial proceedings. When your petition for expungement is granted, the court will issue an order which states that the crime/offense “shall be deemed not to have occurred.” Your records, however, will not be destroyed, but only sealed.

The New Expungement Law

The new expungement law reduces some waiting periods and adds to the number of convictions for disorderly persons offenses that a person may have expunged. Specifically, the new statute:

  • Shortens the waiting period for expunging felony convictions from 10 to 6 years. You can, however, still seek “early pathway” expungement after 5 years
  • Allows a person to expunge up to four disorderly persons convictions, up from three (provided the applicant has not been convicted of a felony)
  • Allows a person to expunge up to three disorderly persons convictions, up from two, if the applicant has a prior felony conviction
  • Allows a person to expunge more than one felony conviction, but only if the felonies were part of a “crime spree,” listed in a single judgment of conviction
  • Gets rid of the “PTI” bar—Under the prior law, a person who has a felony dismissed as part of a “pre-trial intervention (PTI)” could not subsequently seek expungement of any offense. That provision is no longer part of the law.

Contact Attorney Edward M. Janzekovich

To schedule an appointment with an experienced New Jersey DUI defense attorney, contact my office online or call me at 732-257-1137. There is no cost or obligation for your first meeting. Evening and weekend consultations are available by appointment. I accept all major credit cards.

One of the Most Common Days for DUI Arrests – Super Bowl Sunday

Super Bowl Sunday - One of the Most Common Days for DUI ArrestsThis coming Sunday, February 3, 2019, the Los Angeles Rams will be facing off against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LIII at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia at 6:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.  Many people will start drinking early in the day.  By the time the game ends over 4 hours later, many people will have had at least a few drinks.  When it comes time to leave, remember: Don’t Drink and Drive on Super Bowl Sunday.

When it comes to holidays normally associated with frequent drinking and driving arrests, most people think of New Year’s Eve, Independence Day, or St. Paddy’s Day.  In fact, Super Bowl Sunday also frequently has one of the highest rates of DUI arrests across the United States for drunk driving, intoxicated driving, and impaired operating of a motor vehicle.  Here at the Edward M. Janzekovich Law Blog, we always like to remind our readers to take simple precautions in order to avoid becoming another statistic.

The Numbers: Super Bowl And DUI

  1. A 9-year-long study conducted by the Automobile Club of Southern California found that drunken driving-related crashes resulting in injuries were 41% higher on Super Bowl Sunday than on other Sundays in January or February. New Year’s Eve was the only night that was worse, with a 44% increase. Christmas was ranked the third most dangerous major holiday.
  2. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), over one third of all U.S. traffic deaths during the 2016 Super Bowl involved drunk drivers
  3. The legal limit for blood alcohol content in the United States is .08% BAC (or .05% in Utah). According to BACtrack, a company specializing in smartphone-enabled alcohol breath tests, in 2014, its users recorded an average BAC of .091% on Super Bowl Sunday – high enough to convict the average user of driving while intoxicated and just shy of the average .094% associated with New Year’s Eve.
  4. Data from Alcohol Monitoring Systems (AMS) – which analyzes the drinking behavior of 530,000 repeat DUI offenders – found that drinking violations by repeat drunk drivers increased an average of 22% nationwide on Super Bowl Sunday, compared to the average Sunday.
  5. Residents in Los Angeles and New England may have even more reason to be worried – statistically, residents in areas associated with one of the teams playing in the Super Bowl experience an even bigger spike in DUIs and DWIs.  In 2015, when the Patriots played in the big game, violations in New England were twice as high as the rest of the country as well as compared to the average Sunday in the region.

How to Avoid Getting Convicted for Drunk Driving on Super Bowl Sunday

New Jersey law enforcement officials are aware of the spike in drinking and driving on Super Bowl Sunday, so police officers across the state will be on high alert.  You can guarantee that police officers across New Jersey will be looking for any sign of intoxication or impairment on the roads this weekend.

The best thing you can do to avoid getting a DUI or DWI this Sunday is to have a plan.  If you are leaving your home to watch the game, consider having a reliable designated driver.  If you end up drinking more than you planned on, consider staying where you are overnight.  Alternatively, use a taxi, Uber, Lyft, or other ride share service to get where you are going for the night or to come home.  If you need to, leave your car where it is overnight and get it in the morning.

If you get arrested for DUI or DWI, one of your first steps should be calling an experienced drunk driving lawyer as soon as possible.  A good attorney can take action to protect your rights.  No matter what day of the year it is, a conviction for drunk driving in New Jersey will result in serious fines, penalties, and consequences that can affect yourself, your job, your family, and  your loved ones.

New Jersey DUI/DWI Attorney Edward M. Janzekovich Can Act to Protect Your Rights

If you or someone you know is arrested, charged or convicted of drunk driving this winter, calling a good lawyer is the most important thing you can do.  An experienced lawyer will work to review your case and defend you in Court. A good 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.

More New Canadian DWI Laws Including Blood Alcohol Content Extrapolation

DWILast week on the Edward M. Janzekovich Law Blog, we discussed several new laws being enacted in Canada and compared those laws to New Jersey’s statutes on intoxicated driving.  Canada’s new laws against driving impairment are already be called among the toughest in the world, and many would say they are even harsher than New Jersey’s already strict laws that aim to penalize and/or prevent drunk driving.

We previously went over how Canadian police officers are now permitted to pull over a vehicle and ask the driver to submit to a breath test at random without cause, and anyone convicted will be subjected to even harder consequences.

This week, we will discuss Canada’s law that allows police officers to extrapolate or determine a driver’s blood alcohol content at the time the driver was driving, even 10 hours after the person was driving.  This provision for extrapolating BAC is extremely harsh, because a driver can be convicted long after he or she puts down the keys.

Canada’s Provision for Determining a Driver’s Past BAC

Under Canada’s legal system, a police officer may take a driver’s blood sample at any time after he or she was driving and then use a formula to count back and figure out the driver’s past BAC.  This means that law enforcement officials can arrest a driver and take his or her blood sample long after the person is out of the car and no longer driving.  This blood sample can then be tested, and the results can be adjusted based on the formula to approximate the driver’s BAC hours earlier, when he or she was driving.

As long as there is a minimum of 20 milligrams of alcohol in the blood at the time of testing, police officers are entitled to add 10 mg of alcohol for every hour to determine what the person’s BAC was even 10 hours earlier.  The law has no provisions for account for things that could affect the results, like weight, genetics, food intake, drugs, disease, or other factors.

New Jersey’s Law Requiring a Blood Draw Within a Reasonable Time

Previously, Canadian law enforcement were required to obtain blood samples within two hours of the person driving.  This is similar to the current law in New Jersey.

When somebody is charged with drunk driving in the Garden State, one of the ways the New Jersey law enforcement can prove DUI or DWI is by introducing evidence that the driver’s BAC was above the legal limit of .08% or higher.  Because a breathalyzer cannot be used in all situations, police officers are sometimes required to request a blood draw.  For instance, a driver who is involved in a car accident may be unconscious or too injured to provide a breath sample.  In those cases, the investigating officer may attempt to get a blood sample, either by getting a warrant, getting consent, or proving exigent circumstances.

If a blood draw is taken, the general rule in New Jersey is that the blood sample must be taken in a reasonable period of time from when the driver was last driving.  A blood draw taken within a reasonable time period of the encounter is necessary to ensure that the BAC fairly reflects the level of intoxication when the motorist was operating his or her vehicle.

New Jersey has no provision allowing for extrapolating or approximating BAC backwards to the time the driver was driving involving a charge of NJSA 39:4-50. Therefore, unlike under the new Canadian law, a good attorney in New Jersey may be able to have any blood BAC evidence dismissed if he or she can show that there was an unreasonable delay in obtaining the sample or if there was an intervening incident – such as additional drinking, eating, taking medications, etc. – that could affect a driver’s results or condition.

How a Lawyer Can Help if You are Arrested or Charged in NJ

As noted last week, Canada’s new laws have been specifically redesigned to make defending against DUI and DWI charges harder.  In New Jersey, getting a good lawyer as soon as possible can still make a huge difference, and an attorney may even be able to have the case dismissed completely.  If you or someone you know is charged with driving while intoxicated, an experienced lawyer will be able to review the evidence against you and put up the best defense on your behalf.

New Jersey DUI Attorney Edward M. Janzekovich Is There for You If You’ve Been Charged with Drunk Driving

DWI/DUI cases can often involve complicated issues of evidence, and successfully challenging that evidence requires knowledge and experience about the law.  If you or someone you know is facing a DWI charge, a knowledgeable drunk driving 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.

Drunk Driving in a Self-Driving Car

Drunk Driving in a Self Driving CarThese days, there isn’t a lot that a car can’t do. They can parallel park for you, help you stay in your lane, apply the brakes and, amazingly, even drive for you.  Self-driving cars, also known as autonomous vehicles, are famously made by Google and Tesla, but all major manufacturers have plans to roll out with driver-less vehicles in the next few years.  These vehicles of the future are expected to increase fuel efficiency and decrease the number of car accidents, since studies show that most motor vehicle accidents are due to human error.

In theory, many people stand to benefit from this technology, including anyone who might otherwise plan to get behind the wheel while distracted.  For instance, one of the first things that many people think is that this technology will eliminate the need to worry about drinking and driving.  It would be natural to assume that you can go out to your favorite bar, have a few beers, summon your vehicle to pick you up at the door step, and get home without doing anything more than tell the vehicle, “take me home.”  Unfortunately, this might just be a fantasy.  In reality, things are much more complicated.

With new developments in the self-driving car industry over the last few years, lawmakers and citizens alike have started asking whether someone can be convicted of a DUI/DWI if he or she is behind the ‘wheel’ of a self-driving car. Unfortunately, there is not a clear legal answer to that question yet in New Jersey. There are very few truly self-driving cars on the roads right now in the country, so a case involving a self-driving car and a DUI/DWI conviction simply has not yet come up in court.  However, based upon pending legislation and news, the answer seems to be pointing toward “yes,” you will be able to be convicted of a DUI/DWI while operating a self-driving car if you are pulled-over and found to be intoxicated while behind the wheel in this State.

Driver Assistance Technology vs. Autopilot

First, it is important to recognize that many cars on the road already include some of the technology that is in a self-driving car – including automatic parallel parking, automatic braking, and the ability to match speeds with other vehicles in cruise control. These features, by themselves, do not make a car fully-autonomous.  For the most part, the person behind the wheel in one of these vehicles is still in control and is considered “driving.”  Such a driver could definitely be convicted of drunk driving.

Tesla is one of the few manufacturers that includes an auto-pilot feature, which is one of the closest things to self-driving currently available.  However, even Tesla Motors specifically states that its auto-steer feature is currently still in testing, and that it should only be used on highways where there are clear lane markings or where there is another vehicle that can be directly followed.  The feature also requires the driver to periodically touch the wheel or else the feature will turn off.  Therefore, a person behind the wheel of a Tesla is still driving and is still expected to control the vehicle in certain situations and take over when the car’s computers cannot do so.  Therefore, a court will likely find that someone operating a car in autopilot could still be convicted for driving while intoxicated.

Laws Requiring Ignition Interlock Devices on All Self-Driving Cars

At some point, cars will become even smarter than they are now.  For that reason, legislators are already preparing to address those people who will want to drink and get behind the wheel of a self-driving car.  A new bill that was introduced in 2016 wants to make it a requirement for all self-driving cars sold in New Jersey to have an ignition interlock device installed in order to prevent drivers from starting the vehicle while intoxicated and evading state statutes that prohibit drunk driving. The bill, which was introduced by Assemblywoman Nancy J. Pinkin, is currently still making its way through legislative committees.

Self-Driving Vehicles and Driving Drunk

Whether or not laws like the ignition interlock requirement pass, legislators across the country are leaning towards considering any person who is behind the wheel of a vehicle to be driving, whether the car is self-driving or autonomous or completely manual.  This is because drivers in autonomous vehicles will still be seated in the driver’s seat, and will be expected to monitor the car and be available to take control in case of an emergency.  Regardless of whether a vehicle is in auto-steer or autopilot mode, the person behind the wheel will still be able to use the brake pedal and the accelerator if necessary.  This person could also take over from the computer if he or she wanted.

For that reason, the International Council on Alcohol, Drugs and Traffic Safety, considers driving to include the actions that require a person to start the car, enter destination instructions and put the car into self-driving mode.

When it comes to DUIs and DWIs, what this means is that anyone who is behind the wheel of a self-driving vehicle can be considered the driver and in actual control of the car.  If you are pulled over and found to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, a court will be able to say that you are still in actual, physical control of the car.  Therefore, you could still be found guilty of DUI.  If you find yourself charged with driving under the influence at any time, no matter what technology is available in your vehicle, it is important to contact an experienced DUI attorney who can review the complicated facts of your case and explain to you what your rights.

New Jersey DWI Attorney Edward M. Janzekovich Can Help Persons Suspected of Driving Drunk

If you have been arrested, charged or convicted of DWI/DUI, refusal to submit to a breath test, or driving with a restricted license, you could be facing serious penalties – jail time, heavy fines, and loss of license – that can seriously affect your ability to care and provide for yourself or your loved ones.  No matter the charges, it is extremely important to contact an experienced attorney who can explain what rights you have and is prepared to present the best defense in your case.  A good 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 in Ocean County, Monmouth County, Mercer County, Middlesex County, Union County and Somerset County.