Common Sense Indicators of Drunkenness are enough in DWI Cases

Submitted by New Jersey DWI Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark

Contrary to popular belief in order to prove intoxication for a DWI charge the State does not need a blood alcohol test nor a field sobriety test but only must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was intoxicated given the totality of the circumstances.

The Superior Court of New Jersey followed this precedent when it decided the case of State v. Cumpston on July 2, 2014. Cumpston was found with his vehicle crashed into a telephone pole. He was unable to balance himself without holding onto the vehicle, admitted to drinking shots and margaritas, and when he was at the hospital for treatment he did not wake up when his blood was drawn and also urinated in his pants. Case law in New Jersey has long held that if it can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt given the totality of the circumstances that a defendant is intoxicated then neither a field sobriety test nor blood alcohol test is necessary. But what constitutes a totality of the circumstances?

Well, the relevant case law reveals that if an officer observes things like blood-shot eyes, the smell of alcohol, a loss of balance from the defendant, admissions to consuming alcohol and other common sense indicators of intoxication this can be used as sufficient evidence for a DWI conviction. See State v. Kent, 391 N.J. Super. 352 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 2007) where admission to consuming five beers and bloodshot eyes was enough. Involvement in a vehicle accident especially bolsters such evidence, and even more so when the accident is a single-driver accident like the one in the present case, that lacks explanation unless there was drunk driving.

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