Can I be convicted of a DWI if the judge watches or considers the police body camera? Can I be convicted of a DWI and a refusal if there are no drugs or proof of alcohol?
Submitted by New Jersey DWI Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.
In this case the defendant refused to blow on the alcotester once he was brought back to the police department after a motor vehicle stop. At the municipal court trial the state played the police body camera of the defendant exiting his vehicle at the time of the motor vehicle stop. The judge watched the video and listened to the police testimony regarding the defendant’s physical appearance and physical conduct at the time of the psychophysical tests were being administered. As a result of the judge watching the video and hearing the officer’s testimony the court found the defendant guilty of the DWI and the refusal.
The appellate court deferred to the municipal court trial judge’s findings of credibility and honesty of the police officer. The appellate court then ruled that a “DWI conviction may be based upon physical evidence, such as symptoms observed by the arresting police officers or failure of the defendant to perform adequately on balance and coordination tests. State v. Liberatore, 293 N.J. Super. 580, 589 (Law Div. 1995), aff’d o.b., 293 N.J. Super. 535 (App. Div. 1996). “. Further, “ A defendant’s demeanor, physical appearance, slurred speech, and bloodshot eyes, together with an odor of alcohol or an admission of the consumption of alcohol and poor performance on field sobriety tests, are sufficient to sustain a DWI conviction. State v. Bealor, 187 N.J. 574, 588-89 (2006). “
The court goes on to state: “ Because there was obviously probable cause to arrest defendant for DWI under the totality of circumstances described above, and he thereafter refused to submit to a chemical breath test, we discern no basis for disturbing defendant’s refusal conviction under N.J.S.A. 39:4-50.2. See State v. Marquez, 202 N.J. 485, 503 (2012) (listing the elements that must be established to uphold a refusal conviction). Finally, Officer Cerro’s testimony that defendant veered from one lane to another, and drove at least fifteen miles over the speed limit, provided more than enough credible evidence to support defendant’s conviction for careless driving under N.J.S.A. 39:4-97. “
What you can get out of this appellate decision is one more in a long line of continued cases supporting a DWI conviction based solely on the officers observations of impairment in conjunction with the best evidence… The body camera clearly depicting the defendant being under the influence and impaired as he was walking from his car towards the police officer to perform the field sobriety test.