Can You Be Charged With DWI on Private Property?

  • DWI

Everyone in New Jersey understands that if you drink too much, and you get behind the wheel of a car or truck, you may be stopped by the police and arrested for driving while intoxicated (DWI). If that happens, you must arrange at once to speak with a New Jersey DWI attorney.

What is the real extent of New Jersey’s DWI enforcement? Does the law against driving while intoxicated apply on private property in this state? Where can the police arrest you for driving while intoxicated in New Jersey?

If you continue reading, you will learn how New Jersey’s DWI laws apply to driving on private property, what New Jersey’s basic DWI penalties are, and what steps to take if you are arrested for driving while intoxicated in New Jersey.

What Constitutes “Private Property” in New Jersey?

In New Jersey, drivers who are intoxicated can be placed under arrest for driving on private property. New Jersey is not alone. While the language of the law may slightly vary from one state to another, driving on private property while intoxicated is illegal in every state.

In New Jersey, private property includes not only residential property but also streets inside gated communities and apartment complexes along with parking garages and parking lots adjoining shopping centers and other commercial locations.

What Have the Courts Said About Private Property and DWI?

For decades, New Jersey’s courts have held that – without regard to where the intoxicated driving takes place – intoxicated driving poses extraordinary risks of injury to the driver, other parties, and property.

In one prominent case (State v. McColley, 1978), the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, upheld a criminal court’s conviction of a driver who had been prosecuted for driving while intoxicated on his own private property in Middlesex County.

Police officers had observed John McColley driving erratically in the parking lot behind his moving company. A sign stating “No Parking, Private Property” had been posted to keep the retail customers of nearby businesses from using the lot, where McColley parked moving vans.

When McColley was arrested, he stated that he was moving a friend’s car from the wrong parking space to another part of the parking lot. The state did not contest McColley’s claim that he had no intention of driving the vehicle away from the property while he was intoxicated.

What if You Are Not Driving a Car or Truck?

Provided that the police have probable cause to believe you are driving while intoxicated, they have a legal right – anywhere in New Jersey – to pull you over for suspicion of driving while intoxicated.

In fact, you are not permitted to operate any motorized vehicle in this state – including golf carts, go-karts, tractors, all-terrain vehicles, mopeds, scooters, and electric bicycles – on either public or private property if you are impaired.

While the law refers to “motorized” vehicles, the courts have ruled inconsistently about bicycling while intoxicated. It is a murky area of the law, so if you are charged with riding a bicycle while intoxicated – on either public or private property – you will need a DWI attorney’s help.

What is a DWI Attorney’s Role?

Even sitting in your parked car in your driveway while you are impaired could get you arrested for DWI. However, a court may look at whether the vehicle’s engine was warm or whether keys were in the ignition. Charges of this nature are handled by the courts on a case-by-case basis.

In the State of New Jersey, if you are accused of driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs, the right New Jersey DWI defense attorney will investigate the charge, protect your rights, and fight effectively and aggressively for the justice you need and deserve.

What Penalties May be Imposed for a New Jersey DWI Conviction?

A New Jersey DWI conviction can trigger penalties that include community service and court-ordered installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) in the offender’s vehicle. Convicted offenders also must attend classes at an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center.

Additionally, a first-time offender charged with DWI in New Jersey could serve up to thirty days in jail and pay a fine ranging from $250 to $500. For a second DWI conviction within a ten-year period, an offender could serve up to ninety days in jail and be fined up to $1,000.

The precise penalties will vary and depend on the details of the charge and the defendant’s previous DWI convictions (if any), so you should ask a New Jersey DWI lawyer to handle your case as soon as possible after you have been arrested and charged – and before you enter a plea.

What Defenses Can Be Presented in DWI Cases?

Usually, a DWI attorney’s first step on a defendant’s behalf will be asking the prosecutor to drop the charge or asking the court to dismiss the case.

But if you believe you are innocent, and the case goes to trial, your DWI attorney may offer one or more of these defenses on your behalf:

1. The police had no probable cause to believe that you were driving while intoxicated.

2. Your breathalyzer test results were unreliable because the breathalyzer was not routinely maintained or properly calibrated.

3. The officer who tested you was not trained to use a breathalyzer device, or the breathalyzer test was not conducted properly.

Being arrested for DWI does not mean that you will be convicted. In 2017, for example, 24 percent of the drivers charged with DWI in New Jersey either had the charge dismissed or pleaded guilty to a lesser charge such as reckless driving.

What Is the Best Advice Regarding DWI?

The best advice about driving while intoxicated is not even legal advice. It is common sense, and you have heard it many times: Do Not Drink and Drive.

Hire a taxicab, an Uber, arrange for someone you trust to act as your designated driver, find a room for the night, or spend the night on a friend’s sofa.

After drinking, do not get behind the wheel until and unless you are completely sober. The costs of making the wrong judgment about drinking and driving – and then being convicted for driving while intoxicated – are far too high.

Of course, it is possible that you could be wrongly arrested and accused of DWI even if you are innocent. But innocent or guilty, contact a New Jersey attorney at once for the legal advice and the defense you will need if you are charged in this state with driving while intoxicated.

Related Blog Posts

How Does New Jersey Differentiate Between DUI and DWI Offenses?

What Are the Consequences of a DWI Conviction in New Jersey?

Will I Automatically Be Deported After a DWI Conviction in New Jersey?

Steven W. Hernandez, Board-Certified DUI Attorney