Explore the critical things to keep in mind when you find yourself charged with criminal offenses or given traffic tickets from a motor vehicle stop in New Jersey
Getting stopped by the police is unnerving, at the least, though terrifying for some. You see the flashing red lights, and your anxiety level immediately rises. You may or may not know what you did wrong, but slight nausea combined with the stress and shame makes for a perfect storm of mistakes. You can say or do the wrong thing that makes the experience worse. Knowing what to do at a police stop is helpful and may make a difference in the outcome of the incident. If you know what you and the police officers should do during a stop, you can be less anxious and more prepared to preserve your rights and potential defense to any charges that arise from the stop.
Tips for Communicating, Knowing Your Rights and Obligations
The first thing you want to do when stopped by the police is to remain calm. And then you want to act and speak as if you are on a job interview for a high-paying job, acting calmly, confidently, and courteously, exercising reserve. Next, you want to answer the officer’s general questions about the stop. You want to cooperate but understand that you do not have to answer specific questions or divulge information without an attorney present. So, provide those items without hesitation once the officer comes to your window and asks for your driver’s license, registration, and insurance information.
Always remain polite and calm, making no attempt to touch the officer or gesture wildly, causing them to misconstrue your actions. And since the officer must have probable cause to stop you or search your vehicle, know that you can politely refuse a request to search your car. If they have probable cause to believe you have evidence of criminal activity, they must be able to support that under the law or get a warrant to search your vehicle. However, if they see incriminating evidence in plain view, they can search the car. An example of the plain view exception to the warrant requirement is when an officer looking in your window can see a gun or drugs on the floor, in the back seat, the side door pocket, or in the center console area. That means the officer can see the gun, drugs, or other items evidencing a crime without uncovering or touching something to find the evidence.
Possible Criminal or Motor Vehicle Charges Arising from the Stop in NJ
With probable cause or a warrant, they can search the vehicle and arrest you for illegal possession of a firearm or transporting a weapon illegally. In addition, drug charges range from possession to possession with the intent to distribute or other related charges concerned with controlled dangerous substances. Even drug paraphernalia, such as pipes, hypodermic needles, or cocaine-laced straws, can land you in the back of a police car on your way to the local station. Finally, any evidence they find in a search of your vehicle by consent, the plain view exception, their safety (if they believe a gun is in the car), or under another exception can result in an arrest.
Other evidence the police may find in your car is your breath. An officer may ask you to leave the vehicle if the officer suspects you are driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If the officer smells alcohol or detects other signs of driving while intoxicated, they may ask you to perform field sobriety tests. It takes only a few failed steps in a field sobriety test to arrest you and take you to the station for a breathalyzer test. The breathalyzer confirms your blood alcohol level to verify whether it is over the legal limit of .08%. And if you refuse to submit to a breathalyzer test, you get an automatic DWI/DUI refusal charge. A judge can still convict you for a DWI without the breathalyzer verification of your blood alcohol content.
Whether a prosecutor will successfully prosecute you for a DUI/DWI or any other charges arising from the stop depends on many factors. For example, the police officers may not have had probable cause to stop you before they arrested you or searched your car. They must stop you for a traffic violation they observed or other valid reason. They cannot stop you because you look like someone who would commit a crime or other invalid reasons. When the police stop you without probable cause that you are involved in a crime, any evidence they seize from your vehicle or your person cannot be used to prosecute you and is subject to a motion to suppress.
Motions to Suppress Evidence Seized in a NJ Motor Vehicle Stop
A criminal defense attorney typically files a motion to suppress to get illegal evidence thrown out. So, when the police stop you without probable cause and search your vehicle without your consent or a valid legal reason, your attorney can file a motion to suppress any items the police gathered at the stop and search, including after arrest. And if the police arrested you for a DUI/DWI based on faulty practices that violated your rights, you can seek to suppress the field sobriety test results, breath test evidence, and officer testimony regarding same. In a DWI case, a skilled defense attorney can challenge the field sobriety test and the breathalyzer results for improprieties. For example, both the field sobriety and breathalyzer tests have prescribed rules and procedures for administration. An officer administering either test must ensure they followed the testing methods to ensure the accuracy of the results. Otherwise, the evidence is tainted and unpersuasive. You cannot negotiate a DUI/DWI to a lesser offense, so you need the help of an attorney to challenge the charges through other legal means. Learn more about the Best Ways to Challenge a DWI in New Jersey.
Motions to suppress rely on the law and facts of your case. You must be able to persuade a judge in writing and through oral arguments that evidence against you is illegal. You must know the rules of evidence and the court and the criminal and traffic laws of New Jersey. A skilled criminal defense attorney already knows what it takes to defend your rights at trial, move to dismiss the case, or get certain charges reduced to lesser charges. For this reason, it is highly advisable to have a battle-tested criminal lawyer on your side in municipal or superior court.
Did you receive traffic tickets or criminal charges in Newark or another town in Essex County?
A prosecutor must persuade a judge or jury that you committed a specific crime or offense beyond a reasonable doubt. If the evidence they rely on is inaccurate or questionable, neither judge nor jury may convict you. Whether the police charged you with a disorderly persons offense, arrested you for a felony crime, or issued tickets for motor vehicle offenses, you want the best defense possible. This seemingly trivial issue can lead to unimaginable consequences now, but definite damaging results in the future. Defending yourself may not get you the outcome you want and need. Don’t take a chance with your future. Contact a criminal defense attorney at our Essex County law office for a free consultation today. Call 201-654-3464 or contact us online to go over the details of what happened in your case and what you can do now.