Have you been arrested during a motor vehicle stop in Morris County NJ? Our local criminal lawyers can help.
Getting pulled over by the police is anxiety-producing. Sometimes you do not even understand why the flashing lights appear in your rear-view mirror. By understanding what could get you pulled over, why an arrest may occur, and what happens when you face criminal or DWI/DUI charges from a motor vehicle stop, you can more confidently move forward and assess the options in your case. Get help right away by contacting our criminal defense attorneys if you are facing charges from being arrested during a police stop anywhere in Morris County, including in Parsippany, Florham Park, Madison, Morristown, Roxbury, Denville, and surrounding towns. Please call (908) 336-5008 for a free consultation.
What could get you stopped by police while driving
The police can pull you over for numerous infractions if they suspect you do not comply with the traffic laws. For example, they might look at your registration tags or license plate and see that you have not renewed your registration or your license plate holder covers “Garden State” on your plate. Both are violations of driving a vehicle on the road. The police may also stop you for more serious offenses, like going through a stop sign, running a red light, or driving recklessly. In other words, the police may pull you over for the violations they observe, and that is sufficient probable cause to pull you over and detain you for a reasonable time. However, probable cause or suspicion of criminal activity is enough reason for a police officer to pull you over. And courts give police some leeway in justifiable motor vehicle stops.
And yet, they cannot stop you for no reason or an unlawful reason, like racial profiling. The police may stop you because you look like a suspect they are looking for under a criminal investigation but not merely because your physical appearance as a person of color or certain economic status makes them suspicious. Once they stop you legally, they can ask you questions about where you are going and how you were driving if they pulled you over for an observed motor vehicle violation.
What could lead to your arrest at a traffic stop
After they ask you for your driver’s license, registration, and insurance, they can run your plates in their computer and see if you have any outstanding warrants. If you do, you are likely to be arrested and taken into the station or jail, depending on what your background check pulls up. They can also further investigate and arrest you after detecting alcohol on your breath. If law enforcement suspects you are driving drunk, the police can ask you to submit to field sobriety tests. And if you fail or perform poorly on any of the tests, they can arrest and require you to take a breathalyzer test to measure your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). If your BAC is .08% or over (even less in some cases), you may be charged with a DWI for driving under the influence of alcohol. Read this to learn how you can still be charged with DUI for a BAC less than the limit in NJ.
Similarly, a visible driving impairment may lead the police to question you about any drugs you have in your system. They may believe they detect drugs by your eyes, demeanor, or odor. In that case, an officer may ask you to take a urine or blood test to determine if you have drugs in your system. They may all call in a Drug Recognition Expert whose analysis of your physical and mental state can be used as against to prove drug DUI charges. Driving with a controlled dangerous substance or alcohol in your system is a motor vehicle violation that New Jersey punishes sternly. Find out the recent changes to NJ DWI laws and penalties.
Another reason for arrest or being issued a summons may be for reckless driving. If your driving places others on the road at risk for injury or death, the police may arrest you for reckless driving. To commit the violation, you must intentionally drive in such a way that deliberately or recklessly places others in harm’s way. So, if you drag race on a public roadway, reaching excessive speeds that could cause you to lose control of your car or crash into other cars or pedestrians, you could be arrested and spend 60 days in the county or municipal jail. If it is not your first reckless driving offense, you could face up to 90 days in prison and a license suspension if you have too many points on your driving record.
If you are driving on a suspended license, you give the police another reason to charge you.
Driving with a suspended license is also a potential 60 days in jail and six months before you can get a valid license. Similarly, driving without the minimum required insurance to protect others on the road is a violation that could cost you between $300 and $1,000.00 in fines, community service, and a one-year driver’s license suspension. If you are caught another time without insurance, you could go to jail and lose your license for a couple of years or until you provide proof of proper insurance, whichever is longer.
Only evidence from lawful searches can be used against you in a court of law.
However, regardless of why they stopped you, the police cannot search you or your vehicle without good reason and/or a search warrant. That is the protection the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and New Jersey law affords everyone. They can search your person or your vehicle if they have a valid suspicion that you engaged in criminal activity and you consented to a search. So, if they ask for consent to frisking your person, they must have evidence for their suspicion that you have something illegal, like drugs or firearms, on your person. If they suspect you have a weapon, they may pat you down to find it. However, the police cannot search your vehicle, even with consent, if there is no reason for the search.
If the police do find illegal items after an unlawful search, they may not use those items to prosecute you for a crime. You may make a motion to have illegal evidence suppressed, meaning the prosecutor cannot use the evidence to prove you committed a crime. If you refuse to consent to a search, you cannot be arrested. Conversely, an officer who validly arrests you after finding you have an outstanding warrant for your arrest, a suspended license, or evidence of drunk driving may search you after arrest. That may be when the police find evidence of crimes other than the one they arrest you for, such as gun charges or drug offenses.
In addition, if they find incriminating evidence in plain view in your vehicle, the police may arrest you for breaking the law even without a warrant. So, for example, a police officer who shines their flashlight in your car at a nighttime traffic stop may observe your bloodshot eyes and smell alcohol on your breath. When they ask you to step out of the vehicle, the plastic bag with white powder that slips out of your pocket and rests on the driver’s seat may be the cause of your arrest. The police can arrest if they suspect you of possessing illegal drugs. The same goes for drug paraphernalia. They may ask you to take field sobriety tests to verify drunk or drugged driving. But if the white powder turns out to be an illegal controlled dangerous substance, you could face charges for a DUI and drug possession. The latter is an indictable crime punishable by prison in most cases.
Our Morristown criminal attorneys have numerous ways to challenge the case against you.
Given the wide latitude police have to stop you and investigate crime, you need experienced legal advice after the police arrest you at a traffic stop. You do have rights that the police cannot deny you. Thus, when you retain a criminal defense attorney at our Morris County defense firm, you may be surprised to discover that the police violated your rights in stopping or arresting you or both. Even for speeding, we know that speeding is often the officer’s word against yours. And radar guns, like any other technology, need to be calibrated and serviced, so they may not be accurate. Breathalyzers, too, need servicing and maintenance. Our criminal defense lawyers can access internal records to examine whether the equipment that founded the stop and traffic violation is reliable. Moreover, a dispute over whether you consented to a search may be another issue that we can verify by dash cam footage or police body cameras.
At the end of the day, it is important to ascertain the legality of your stop, detention, and arrest and strategies to defeat or convince the prosecutor to better the outcome of your case. Contact our office in Morristown today to talk through the details of your charges and how we can help. Call (908) 336-5008 for immediate assistance. 24/7