DWI and Admissions to Operation

While we await the return of DWI checkpoints to the Jersey Shore, the Law Office of Frederick P. Sisto is happy to provide tips to help you avoid a wrongful DWI conviction.

It is common for people to be charged with DWI even when the police did not observe them operating a motor vehicle. This most often occurs after the person admits to operation or admits to an intent to operate.

When an admission is alleged, one of the potential defenses lies in having the admission excluded from evidence. Whether this can be done is a fact-sensitive inquiry that often turns on whether the defendant was “in custody” during any admissions.

Miranda warnings and waivers are only required if there is custodial interrogation. In Miranda, the United States Supreme Court defined “custodial interrogation” as “questioning initiated by law enforcement after a person has been deprived of his freedom of action in a significant way.”

New Jersey’s Appellate Division addressed the “in custody” issue regarding suspected drunk drivers in the 2005 case of State v. Ebert. There, although the police officer suspected that the defendant had been driving while intoxicated, she was not “in custody” until after the officer located her car, observed her difficulty in walking, and conducted field sobriety tests. Thus, the statements she made before the field sobriety testing were admissible against her at trial. The key was that there was no “significant deprivation of action” before the testing. Recall that you should never agree to perform field sobriety testing.

The best approach in dealing with any on-scene questioning is to be polite and respectfully decline to answer any questions aside from basic pedigree information (name, date of birth, etc.) If the police tell you that they will have to arrest you if you do not provide more information, then let them arrest you. It is better to spend some hours in police custody then it is to provide them with admissions that they can use in court as bases for far more serious penalties.

Stay tuned for additional tips and remember that a designated driver is the best way to avoid a DWI. Your best DWI defense is to call Fred Sisto.

Have a great week-end!