Articles Posted in DWI/DUI

New Jersey State Police

New Jersey State Police (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

New Jersey takes its campaign against drunk driving seriously and often beefs up its efforts around holidays, like the recent Labor Day weekend. (1) Penalties for driving under the influence are stiff and can severely impact your everyday life. If, after reading the following, you need the assistance of a Hunterdon County lawyer for a DUI traffic violation, contact the personal injury attorneys at Ragland Law Firm of Lebanon, N.J.

According to the New Jersey State Police website, there were 373 fatalities in 355 motor vehicle accidents so far this year as of the time this blog was written. (2) While not all of these accidents are attributable to drunk driving, many are. It has been reported that 20% of the traffic fatalities in the state in 2010 were related to alcohol use. (1)

The State Appellate Division recently confirmed that the high-tech Alcotest to determine a person’s blood alcohol level is not necessary to proving a drunk driving case. In fact, a person suspected of driving under the influence can be convicted solely on the results of field testing, according to the court. (1) If after reading the following, you need a Hunterdon County lawyer that can assist you with a similar situation regarding drunk driving laws in New Jersey, contact DWI attorneys Ragland Law Firm located in Lebanon, New Jersey, on Route 22 in the westbound lane.

The case dates back to October 2008 and involves a woman who was stopped in Manchester Township for driving erratically. The woman admitted to having two glasses of wine but said her swerving was caused by reaching down to retrieve something she had dropped. Roadside sobriety tests were administered and the woman failed. She was then brought to the police station where she agreed to take an Alcotest, which showed her blood alcohol level to be 0.15. (1) The legal limit in New Jersey is 0.08. (2)

The woman blamed her poor performance on the sobriety tests, which included walking a straight line heel-to-toe and maintaining balance with feet together and while standing on one foot as directed, on her Graves disease, an autoimmune disorder, and the fact she was wearing high heels at the time. Her lawyers questioned the validity of the Alcotest since the officer who administered it had not observed her for the required 20 minutes prior to testing. As a result, they said the test results should not be considered.(1) The 20-minute observation period is intended to ensure the suspect does nothing that could alter the results of the test. (3)

Driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious offense in New Jersey. While first-timers may be treated a little more leniently, repeat offenders face harsh penalties. Anyone tempted to drive under the influence should know that not all DUI convictions need to occur in this State in order to be considered a repeated offense. If, after reading this, you have questions regarding the DUI laws in New Jersey, in Hunterdon County or another county within New Jersey, contact the lawyers at Ragland Law Firm.

A New Jersey Appeals Court earlier this month ruled that a lower court in Bedminster was right when it treated Jeffrey Zeikel as a repeat offender after a December 2009 DUI arrest. Mr. Zeikel pleaded guilty to the charge – his fourth – in June 2010, but argued that he should be considered a first-time offender due to a provision in the State’s DUI law. That provision allows that if more than 10 years pass between a first and second offense, the second incident be treated as a first-time offense. Mr. Zeikel’s last offense before the Bedminster charge occurred in Chatham 16 years earlier. Before that, however, he was convicted twice in New York State, once in 1981 and again only 3 years later in 1984. (1)

At the original hearing in Bedminster Municipal Court, Mr. Zeikel was sentenced to 180 days in prison, received a fine of $1,006 and lost his license for 10 years. (1) Usually first-time offenders would receive jail time of up to 30 days, fines of between $300 and $500, and a license suspension of between 7 and 12 months under New Jersey law. (2)

It has been calculated that driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol can cost a driver up to $10,000 in fines, insurance surcharges and related expenses. (1) That cost can skyrocket depending on the severity of a resulting accident.

Last week, a New Jersey jury awarded $3,375,000 to Ernesto Sta Maria’s estate; Mr. Sta Maria was killed in an automobile accident in Middletown, NJ, in 2007. Mr. Sta Maria died from injuries suffered after his car was struck by another car driven by Christopher M. Brozyna, an off-duty state trooper whose blood alcohol level registered more than two times the legal limit at the time. (2)

The lawsuit, heard by Superior Court Judge Joseph Rea in New Brunswick, was first filed in April, 2008, and included several bars that presumably served Mr. Brozyna. The jury found Mr. Brozyna responsible for 57% of the amount awarded and split the remaining judgment between two Red Bank businesses – the Dublin House, 33%, and Ashes Cigar Club, 10%. (2)

Earlier this month the New Jersey Supreme Court issued a divisive ruling that, in effect, allows drivers convicted of driving under the influence to sue the bars that served them. (1)

The split decision (5-2) relates to a 2009 lawsuit filed by Frederick Voss against Tiffany’s Restaurant, Toms River, NJ. According to that suit Mr. Voss, who was driving a motorcycle, was involved in an accident after he had been drinking at the restaurant. Voss, who had a reported blood alcohol level of 0.196, pleaded guilty to driving under the influence. The legal alcohol limit in New Jersey is 0.08. (1)

Although he pleaded guilty to the DUI, Voss sued the owner and driver of the car that hit him, as well as the restaurant for continuing to serve him even though he clearly was intoxicated. An Ocean County Superior Court judge dismissed the actions against the car’s driver and owner citing a 1997 statute that prohibits anyone convicted of drunk driving from suing for damages. The judge, however, allowed the action against the restaurant citing the State’s dram shop laws, which were adopted some ten years earlier. (2)

Police across the State have stepped up efforts this holiday season to crack down on drunk drivers. Two recent incidents illustrate just how serious the problem can be.

*Amy Locane, a former “Melrose Place” actress and Hopewell, NJ, resident, was indicted recently on charges of killing a Montgomery Township woman and injuring her husband as a result of a motor vehicle accident in which the actress allegedly was driving under the influence. This accident followed an earlier hit-and-run accident in Princeton, NJ, involving the actress. Locane faces a decades-long prison term if convicted. (1)

*A resident of Freehold, NJ, Samuel Perez Ramirez, pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated in an accident that resulted in the death of his own father, a passenger who was ejected from the vehicle when it struck another car after failing to stop at a stop sign. Ramirez’s blood-alcohol level at the time of the accident was reportedly three times over the legal limit. (2)