If you are charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI), you may think your case is already over and you are destined to lose. What many people don’t know is that there are many ways that the government’s case against you can fail, and you can get your charges dismissed. If you were charged with DWI, don’t just go through the motions and accept the punishment. It is your legal right to question the evidence against you and hire an attorney to defend you in court. For a free consultation on your case, contact the Atlantic City DWI defense attorneys at The Law Offices of John J. Zarych today.
Can DWI Cases Get Dropped or Dismissed?
Understanding the difference between “dropped” and “dismissed” charges may help you understand some of the myths surrounding DWI charges in New Jersey. Even though we may use the terms interchangeably, there is a legal difference between having your case “dropped” and “dismissed.” If the prosecutor cancels the charges against you, the case would be “dropped.” This often happens with plea bargains, where charges will be dropped in exchange for a plea to a lesser crime. Cases are “dismissed” by a judge when they find there is not enough evidence to support a conviction or the actions do not fit the definition of the crime.
DWI cases cannot be dropped in New Jersey, but they can be dismissed. Police and prosecutors are legally required to continue pursuing DWI cases, and may not drop them. This means you cannot get a plea bargain to turn DWI into something like reckless driving, and will have to face the DWI charges. However, there are dozens of ways to prove to a judge that the government lacks the evidence to support a conviction. When the prosecutor fails to prove the case against you, a judge must dismiss it. While DWI cases aren’t dropped in NJ, they are sometimes dismissed.
DWI Dismissal Rate in New Jersey
It is difficult to get statistics on how many cases are actually dropped and dismissed in New Jersey every year. Often, cases are dismissed at very early stages when the government fails to supply the judge with enough evidence. These cases may be dismissed at preliminary hearings or municipal courts before they even make it to trial. These statistics are not collected or analyzed by the government, so there is no uniform record of the number of DWIs that get dropped.
Reasons for Dismissing a DWI in NJ
While there may not be reliable data on the amount of DWIs dropped in NJ, there is plenty of information on why these cases get dismissed.
Under New Jersey’s DWI statute, N.J.S.A. § 39:4-50, you can be convicted of DWI for drunk driving, drugged driving, or driving a car with a specific BAC (blood alcohol concentration) level. This shows us a few areas where the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you violated the law, or else the case should be dismissed:
The driver was not “driving”
Police must prove that you were operating a vehicle in order to convict you of DWI. If police found you in your car, but you were not driving, you may still be convicted if you could have control of the vehicle. However, prosecutors may lose their case against you if you did not have your keys or were outside your car when they found you.
Weak evidence of drunkenness
The statute requires the government prove you were “under the influence” of drugs or alcohol to get a conviction. If police arrested you, but failed to get a trustworthy blood test, they have to rely on what they saw and heard to prove you were drunk or high. This means relying on things like witnessing bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, slow reactions, poor balance, and other things to prove their case. These are not always reliable signs of drunkenness, especially if you have a medical condition.
Similarly, police rely on “field sobriety tests” to show you were drunk. These are the stereotypical tests you may see in movies and TV, such as balancing on one leg or walking a straight line. Though these tests have some scientific backing, they are not always reliably administered, and can be beaten in court.
Testing issues and constitutional violations
In most cases, police use breathalyzer tests or blood tests to confirm your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). If these tests show your level was over .08%, police can often convict you. However, sometimes these tests are poorly administered, tainted, or illegal.
Police may not have recently calibrated their equipment, may not follow testing procedures, or may otherwise fail to properly test your BAC with a breathalyzer. Lab results are not always accurate, especially if there were mix-ups at the lab, someone other than a medical professional drew the blood, or an alcohol swab was used. These errors could make the scientific evidence constitutionally invalid.
Lastly, police need a warrant or your permission to draw blood for a DWI. Failing to do this means the evidence is illegally obtained and should be “suppressed.” Without a solid, secure blood test, DWI charges are often dropped.
Atlantic City DWI Defense Lawyers
If you or a loved one was charged with DWI in South Jersey, talk to an Atlantic City criminal defense attorney today. The attorneys at The Law Offices of John J. Zarych represent DWI defendants in Atlantic City, Hamilton Township, and throughout South and Central Jersey. For a free consultation, call our law offices today at (609) 616-4956.