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The Ticket Crusade In New Jersey For DWIs Has Begun – 114 Police Departments Received Grants To Help With The Effort

As the holiday season approaches, police all over New Jersey have begun their crusade on taking down individuals who are driving while intoxicated and impaired. The campaign with the attached slogan “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” will be in effect until January 1st, 2021. According to the Division of Highway Traffic Safety, drivers who plan on celebrating should be aware of reinforced patrols and more checkpoints.

Last year, police officers in New Jersey made 1,380 DWI arrests involving drugs and/or alcohol during the “Driver Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign. Law enforcement has stated that 129 people were killed in drunk driving accidents the previous year in New Jersey. Furthermore, out of the 10,000 people who were killed throughout the US, 559 of those fatal incidents occurred in New Jersey.

As a result, the Division of Highway Traffic Safety has allocated $656,340 in grants to help 114 law enforcement agencies in the state. Eric Heitmann, the director of the Division of Highway Traffic Safety, said, “Our mission is to ensure that travelers on New Jersey roadways reach their destinations safely — especially during the holiday season when crash risks increase. We pursue this mission through programs like ‘Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over’ that raise public awareness of the dangers of impaired driving and provide law enforcement with funding for enhanced enforcement.”

The following is the list of 144 law enforcement agencies that will obtain grants for the “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign:

Atlantic County

  • Absecon $6,000
  • Atlantic City $9,000
  • Brigantine $2,400
  • Egg Harbor City $3,000
  • Galloway $8,400
  • Hamilton Township $7,200
  • Hammonton $2,400
  • Mullica $6,000
  • Northfield $6,000
  • Pleasantville $6,000

Bergen County

  • Elmwood Park $6,000
  • Fairview $6,000
  • Fort Lee $6,000
  • Garfield $6,000
  • Hackensack $6,000
  • Leonia $6,000
  • Lodi $6,000
  • Maywood $6,000
  • New Milford $6,000
  • Oradell $1,800
  • Palisades Park $6,000
  • Paramus $6,000
  • Teaneck $6,000

Burlington County

  • Cinnaminson $6,000
  • Evesham $7,200
  • Mount Laurel $6,000
  • Pemberton $6,000
  • Riverside $6,000

Camden County

  • Barrington $6,000
  • Camden County Metro $9,000
  • Gloucester Township $6,000
  • Pennsauken $9,000
  • Pine Hill $6,000
  • Stratford $6,000
  • Winslow $6,000

Cape May County

  • Lower $6,000

Cumberland County

  • Millville $7,200
  • Vineland $9,000

Essex County

  • Belleville $6,000
  • Bloomfield $7,200
  • East Orange $7,200
  • Newark $12,000
  • Nutley $6,000

Gloucester County

  • Monroe $6,000
  • Mantua $3,840
  • Paulsboro $2,400
  • Pitman $2,400
  • Rowan University $3,600
  • Washington Township $8,400
  • Westville $3,600
  • Woodbury $3,600

Hudson County

  • Bayonne $6,000
  • Hoboken $6,000
  • North Bergen $7,200
  • Union City $7,200

Hunterdon County

  • Clinton Township $6,000
  • Franklin Township $1,920
  • Frenchtown $1,920
  • Lebanon $2,400
  • Raritan Township $1,500
  • Tewksbury $1,920

Mercer County

  • East Windsor $6,000
  • Ewing $6,000
  • Hamilton Township $8,400

Middlesex County

  • Dunellen $6,000
  • East Brunswick $7,200
  • Edison $7,200
  • Metuchen $6,000
  • Monroe $6,000
  • North Brunswick $6,000
  • Old Bridge $8,400
  • Sayreville $7,200
  • South Brunswick $6,000

Monmouth County

  • Allentown $6,000
  • Brielle $6,000
  • Englishtown $6,000
  • Red Bank $6,000

Morris County

  • Chester Township $6,000
  • Hanover $6,000
  • Jefferson $6,000
  • Morristown $6,000
  • Parsippany-Troy Hills $6,000
  • Rockaway Township $6,000

Ocean County

  • Barnegat $6,000
  • Berkeley $6,000
  • Brick $9,000
  • Jackson $7,200
  • Lacey $6,000
  • Mantoloking $6,000
  • Ocean Gate $6,000
  • Ocean Township $6,000
  • Point Pleasant Borough $6,000
  • Seaside Heights $6,000
  • Stafford $6,000

Passaic County

  • Hawthorne $6,000
  • Little Falls $6,000
  • Passaic $9,000
  • Paterson $9,000
  • Pompton Lakes $6,000
  • Woodland Park $6,000

Somerset County

  • Bernardsville $1,800
  • Branchburg $1,920
  • Far Hills $1,920
  • Franklin Township $3,000
  • Hillsborough $1,920
  • Manville $2,880
  • South Bound Brook $1,920
  • Warren $2,880

Union County

  • Linden $8,400
  • Plainfield $7,200
  • Roselle $6,000
  • Summit $6,000
  • Sussex County
  • Franklin $6,000

Sussex County

  • Hopatcong $6,000

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Bicycle vs. Scooter DWI

Two questions are often asked of me concerning whether someone can be convicted for a DWI when riding a bicycle or scooter while intoxicated. To be precise, the questions that I get are, “Can I get a DWI for being drunk on a bike?” or “What happens if I get stopped for being drunk on a scooter?” In New Jersey, the laws governing DWIs are applied differently to operating a motorized scooter while intoxicated and to riding a bicycle while intoxicated.

N.J.S.A. 39:4-50 (DWI law) specifies that it is illegal for a person to operate a “motor vehicle” while intoxicated. Under N.J.S.A. 39:1-1, a “motor vehicle” is defined as “all vehicles propelled otherwise than by muscular power, excepting such vehicles as run only upon rails or tracks and motorized bicycles.” The same statute defines “motorized scooters” as “a miniature motor vehicle and includes, but is not limited to, pocket bikes, super pocket bikes, scooters, mini-scooters, sport scooters, mini choppers, mini motorcycles, [and] motorized skateboard… This term shall not include: motorized bicycles.” A bicycle is defined under N.J.S.A. 39:4-10.1 as “a vehicle with two wheels propelled solely by human power and having pedals, handle bars and a saddle-like seat.”

As anyone can see, a bicycle is defined differently than a motorized scooter under New Jersey law. And a motorized scooter is defined differently than a motorized bicycle. Unlike a bicycle, a motorized scooter is not allowed on public streets, sidewalks or highways. N.J.S.A. 39:4-14.12. Therefore, it is illegal to operate a motorized scooter in almost any public area (unless authorized by municipal ordinance). However, N.J.S.A. 39:4-14.12 does not reference the use of the scooter while intoxicated or reference the DWI laws in relation to using a scooter.

N.J.S.A. 39:4-14.3g addresses the operation of a motorized bicycle while intoxicated and states that the intoxicated driver of a motorized bicycle shall be subject to the penalties under N.J.S.A. 39:4-50 (DWI law) that apply to drunk drivers of an automobile. Obviously, it is illegal to operate a motorized bike while drunk, but the illegality of drunk motorized scooter driving is not as obvious. Specifically, N.J.S.A. 39:1-1 states that the definition for a “motorized scooter” does not include “motorized bicycles.” And N.J.S.A. 39:4-14.3g mentions motorized bicycles, not motorized scooters. Additionally, the definition for a motor vehicle creates an exception for motorized bicycles and does not mention motorized scooters at all. Therefore, an argument can be made that there is no prohibition against operating a motorized scooter while intoxicated.

Nonetheless, the law division in Somerset County, NJ, decided a case in 1982 that addressed the possibility of intoxicated use of a bicycle as being considered a drunk driving offense. In State v. Tehan, 190 N.J. Super. 348 (Law Div. 1982), the court determined that the statute concerning the rights and duties of a bicyclist, under N.J.S.A. 39:4-14.1, requires a person riding a bicycle to obey all of the traffic laws in New Jersey, included the DWI laws. Using this line of reasoning, the court determined that an intoxicated bicycle operator could be found guilty of a DWI. Yet, since there was no licensing requirement for a bicycle, a bike rider found guilty of the DWI charge could not have a license of any kind forfeited.

Later cases concerning drunk bicycle operating contradicted the ruling in State v. Tehan. So, the reasoning in the Tehan case has lost much of its weight. Most legal practitioners agree that a person cannot be convicted under the DWI laws for this behavior, since a bike is clearly not a motor vehicle in any way, shape or form. Moreover, the law division in State v. Johnson, and State v. Machuzak ruled that N.J.S.A. 39:4-50 (DWI) does not apply to bicycles and a bike rider cannot be found guilty of drunk driving.

With regard to riding a motorized scooter while intoxicated, there appears to be no legal authority, aside from Tehan, that authorizes a person to be charged with DWI for operating a motorized scooter while intoxicated. However, that does not preclude a police officer from charging someone with the offense. If a person is charged with a DWI for being intoxicated while using a scooter, then a strong legal challenge should be made to fight the charge.

Boating While Intoxicated And Sobriety Testing

In New Jersey, it is an offense under the Commerce and Navigation statutes to operate a water vessel while intoxicated (BWI). N.J.S.A. 12:7-46 establishes the penalties if an operator is found guilty.

A person who violates this section shall be subject to the following:

(1) For a first offense:

(i) if the person’s blood alcohol concentration is 0.08% or higher but less than 0.10%, or the person operates a vessel while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, or the person permits another person who is under the influence of intoxicating liquor to operate a vessel owned by him or in his custody or control or permits another person with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or higher but less than 0.10% to operate a vessel, to a fine of not less than $250 nor more than $400; and to the revocation of the privilege to operate a vessel on the waters of this State for a period of one year from the date of conviction and to the forfeiting of the privilege to operate a motor vehicle over the highways of this State for a period of three months;

 (ii) if the person’s blood alcohol concentration is 0.10% or higher, or the person operates a vessel while under the influence of a narcotic, hallucinogenic or habit-producing drug, or the person permits another person who is under the influence of a narcotic, hallucinogenic or habit-producing drug to operate a vessel owned by him or in his custody or control, or permits another person with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.10% or more to operate a vessel, to a fine of not less than $300 nor more than $500; and to the revocation of the privilege to operate a vessel on the waters of this State for a period of one year from the date of conviction and to the forfeiting of the privilege to operate a motor vehicle over the highways of this State for a period of not less than seven months nor more than one year.

 (2) For a second offense, to a fine of not less than $500 nor more than $1,000; to the performance of community service for a period of 30 days, in the form and on the terms as the court deems appropriate under the circumstances; and to imprisonment for a term of not less than 48 hours nor more than 90 days, which shall not be suspended or served on probation; and to the revocation of the privilege to operate a vessel on the waters of this State for a period of two years after the date of conviction and to the forfeiting of the privilege to operate a motor vehicle over the highways of this State for a period of two years.

 (3) For a third or subsequent offense, to a fine of $1,000; to imprisonment for a term of not less than 180 days, except that the court may lower this term for each day not exceeding 90 days during which the person performs community service, in the form and on the terms as the court deems appropriate under the circumstances; and to the revocation of the privilege to operate a vessel on the waters of this State for a period of 10 years from the date of conviction and to the forfeiting of the privilege to operate a motor vehicle over the highways of this State for a period of 10 years.

a. Upon conviction of a violation of this section, the court shall collect forthwith the New Jersey driver’s license or licenses of the person so convicted and forward such license or licenses to the Chief Administrator of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission. In the event that a person convicted under this section is the holder of any out-of-State motor vehicle driver’s or vessel operator’s license, the court shall not collect the license but shall notify forthwith the Chief Administrator of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission , who shall, in turn, notify appropriate officials in the licensing jurisdiction. The court shall, however, revoke the nonresident’s driving privilege to operate a motor vehicle and the nonresident’s privilege to operate a vessel in this State.

 b. A person who has been convicted of a previous violation of this section need not be charged as a second or subsequent offender in the complaint made against him in order to render him liable to the punishment imposed by this section against a second or subsequent offender. If a second offense occurs more than 10 years after the first offense, the court shall treat a second conviction as a first offense for sentencing purposes and, if a third offense occurs more than 10 years after the second offense, the court shall treat a third conviction as a second offense for sentencing purposes.

Many questions exist concerning the prosecution of a boating while intoxicated charge. Aside from a breath test, how can a prosecutor prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt?

Unlike a motor vehicle on the road, operators of water vessels are not expected to keep the vessel moving in a lane or even in a straight line. Often, operators navigate their boats with long arcing motion or zig-zags. Unless there is a near collision, the State would have difficulty showing that the typical vessel operating behavior is erratic and indicative of intoxication.

If a vessel is stopped by the police or some other law enforcement agency, such as the coast guard, then that stop has to be justified by reasonable suspicion that the operator has violated a commerce and navigation statute or is otherwise engaged in criminal activity. During the investigative stop, the law enforcement officer will most likely administer field sobriety tests while the operator is on the vessel. These tests could involve balance. But how can someone have a fair opportunity to perform balance tests on a vessel floating in the water? The short answer is that it is impossible.

Studies have been conducting concerning the effectiveness of field sobriety testing for suspected boating while intoxicated investigations. These studies involved the administration of the horizontal gaze nystagmus test (an eye test) and various seated tests. None of the tests administered involved balance. In fact, one of the studies mentioned that balance tests on a boat were not feasible.

I have encountered a number of BWI cases where the investigating officers laughably based their decisions on the performances of balance tests, such as the one-leg stand and walk-and-turn tests, while the operator was still on the water vessel. As one could imagine, those cases did not last too long and were eventually dismissed. So, if you are arrested for boating while intoxicated (BWI), remember that there are numerous defenses concerning these cases, which could call into question the legitimacy of the investigation and arrest.

The Hidden Downside To Mandated Vehicle Breathalyzers

Drivers in New Jersey convicted of drunk driving are required to install small breathalyzers in their personal vehicles. The breathalyzers are devices called ignition interlock. These devices are directly wired into a car’s ignition system, most notably the steering column, and serves as a precaution against driving drunk. The ignition interlock device will not allow a driver to start or operate their car until he or she blows into its mouthpiece.

While on the road, the interlock will request additional breath samples to ensure that the driver is sober. The tests are known as rolling retests and are checked at random. The driver won’t know when to breathe into the cellphone sized device until it indicates the retest. If the driver does not provide a breath sample when the interlock device demands one, the vehicle goes into panic mode. Contrary to a popular misconception, the car will not shut off its engine if a breath sample is not provided or if the driver produces a high alcohol level during the rolling retest. Instead, the interlock device will log the event, warn the driver, and the car will start honking and flashing its lights until the vehicle is turned off or provided an acceptable sobriety sample.

Ignition interlock devices have prevented thousands of accidents and states that mandate these devices for drivers convicted of drunk driving have seen 15% fewer fatal car accidents. However, the device may not be entirely risk-free, and though created to hinder accidents, ignition interlock devices in some cases have also caused them.

Drivers who were once convicted of drunken driving, but who have since complied with the law find themselves at a higher risk of causing accidents due to rolling retests on ignition interlock devices.

In November 2017, Blake Cowan struck Alexis Butler’s car while she was backing out of her driveway. Cowan, at the time, was required to provide a rolling retest to prove his sobriety while driving. Though he passed the retest, Cowan dropped the device on the floor and tried to retrieve it in case he needed to provide more rolling retests. Trying to reach for the device, Cowan became distracted, and subsequently hit Butler’s car.

Tragically, Butler passed away a week later from her injuries. Two months after the accident, Cowan pleaded guilty and was charged with manslaughter. He’s serving 16 years in prison, and according to his lawyer, Charles Smith, Cowan has tried to commit suicide twice.

Unfortunate events, such as Cowan’s case, have raised questions on the safety of ignition interlock devices and rolling retests. For drivers who are trying to rectify their wrongs, they face strict penalties that may become a double-edged sword. At the risk of doing the right thing, Cowan caused an accident that landed him with a higher criminal conviction and a lengthy prison term. For drivers in New Jersey who face a similar situation, it is crucial to seek the counsel of a DUI attorney in Cherry Hill, NJ, as soon as possible. Convictions involving death lead to severe consequences, and a knowledgeable attorney can identify the best solutions for these types of criminal charges.

The number of ignition interlock devices installed in vehicles is currently rising. An annual industry report estimates that there are about 350,000 people in the United States who have the devices in their cars. Though not all states require the installation of interlocks, there are 34 states mandate the device if a person is convicted of drunk driving, even if it’s their first offense.

Similar laws mandating ignition interlock devices throughout more states are underway, and legislation demanding that all new vehicles carry a version of the device is also being considered. If the legislation passes, new vehicles could be carrying a version of the interlock device as early as 2024.

However, the downsides to interlocks that exist are hidden behind the positive attention that the ignition devices receive. The potential for a driver to become distracted while operating their vehicle due to rolling retests is not fully disclosed or made widely public. The companies responsible for manufacturing ignition interlock devices seem more concerned with burying or discrediting any negative implications.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the federal regulator in charge of vehicle safety equipment standards, drafted a document in 2010 stating that the agency “does not intend” that drivers perform rolling retests. Instead, the agency advises that the driver should be stopped on the side of the road for rolling retests.

However, the industry surrounding interlocks opposed the remarks made by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Interlock industry leaders argued that rolling retests were safe and that expecting drivers to pull over was impractical.

The president of LifeSafer, a vendor for interlock devices, wrote to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, mentioning that the majority of rolling retests occur while a car is moving.

With other vendors and manufacturers conveying the same reaction, the federal regulator relented. In their 2013 guideline, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration demonstrated their concern about distracted driving and left the issue up to the states and local jurisdictions to manage.

The federal regulator, vendors, and manufacturers may have tucked the issue of distracted driving and rolling retests aside, but the fact remains that accidents due to interlocks often occur.

Research by The New York Times of accidents and lawsuits due to ignition interlock devices revealed numerous cases. For instance, in California, a man hit another vehicle on a highway when he crossed the line dividing the lanes while trying to perform a rolling retest. The driver attempting the retest injured a woman and killed her husband.

In Pennsylvania, a man blew so hard into his device that he blacked out and crashed into a tree. The driver almost severed his left hand. Another driver missed a curve in the road while reaching for his interlock device and woke up after someone else was trying to tell him that he was in an accident.

Aside from accidents from distracted driving caused by ignition interlock devices, the breathalyzers can give false positives. When a driver blows into the mouthpiece, a false positive can be triggered by certain foods, snacks, mouthwash, breath mints, toothpaste, and gum. Doughnuts and chocolate can even result in a false positive.

Smart Start, an industry leader in interlocks, advises that drivers stay away from sugary snacks and the like before blowing into the device. False positives can lead to serious legal repercussions. A person can land in court to face the consequences. It is imperative to involve an experienced Cherry Hill DUI attorney who can help argue against false charges.

The legal system is complex and a skilled DUI attorney in Cherry Hill, NJ can fight to protect a driver’s rights against false allegations or even a lapse in judgment that results in harsh consequences and charges.

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New Jersey Turns Up The Heat On Drunk Drivers As 110 Police Departments Receive Overtime Grants For Major Statewide Crackdown

Over 100 New Jersey police departments now have access to funds totaling $540,000 for the state’s crackdown on drunk driving slated to begin immediately and extend through Labor Day weekend. The funds, delivered via overtime grants from the state’s Division of Highway Traffic Safety, are expected to bring police departments across New Jersey the all hands on deck support that they have been seeking in order to target driving while intoxicated (DWI) offenses.

Twice a year, New Jersey rolls out its “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign and the campaign is now up and running and will continue till September 3rd. While the funds are only allocated for 110 police departments, another 300+ departments, including State Police, will be stepping up their efforts to identify and arrest drivers who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs, even without additional funding from the state.

Studies have shown that driving intoxicated (drugs or alcohol) was the major factor in more than a quarter of New Jersey’s 591 traffic fatalities in 2017. Of those 158 accidents attributed to intoxicated driving from either drugs or alcohol, a startling 174 people were killed.

In a statement from Eric Heitmann, the Director of the Division of Highway Traffic Safety, Heitmann said, “If you’re out there driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the odds are we’re going to stop you and arrest you.”

Police officers across the state made 1,196 DWI arrests and issued a staggering 4,764 speeding violations during the previous summer campaign. In addition, police officers issued 3,194 seat belt violations and ticketed another 1,490 drivers for cell phone and/or texting offenses. In short, there were a lot of laws being broken, and police departments hope that the additional funding will bolster their efforts to make the roads safer for all of us. During the latest campaign alone, officers were able to establish 20 DWI checkpoints and deliver 6,200 extra hours patrolling the streets, roads, and highways of New Jersey.

The next campaign comes during the holiday season. Looking back at the statistics from the past holiday season—Dec. 7, 2018 to Jan. 1—police officers made 1,269 DWI arrests taking a significant amount of impaired or intoxicated drivers off the roads. Additionally, they delivered over 5,704 speeding tickets and 3,125 seat belt citations as well. But as we know, driving while texting can be just as deadly as the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, and as such the Division of Highway Traffic Safety conducts a yearly campaign to stop ‘texting and driving’ and yet another specifically targeting seat belt offenders.

The much-needed statewide funding was issued to the following departments:

Atlantic County

Atlantic City $5,500
Egg Harbor Township $5,500
Galloway $5,500
Hamilton $5,500
Hammonton $5,500
Mullica $5,500

Bergen County

Bergenfield $5,500
Fort Lee $5,500
Garfield $5,500
Hillsdale $5,500
Lyndhurst $5,500
Mahwah $5,500
Maywood $5,500
New Milford $5,500
Paramus $5,500
Teaneck $5,500

Burlington County

Bordentown Township $5,500
Cinnaminson $5,500
Delran $5,500
Evesham $5,500
Medford Lakes $5,500
Mount Laurel $5,500
New Hanover $5,500
Palmyra $5,500
Riverside $5,500

Camden County

Camden County $5,500
Gloucester Township $5,500
Haddon Heights $5,500
Pennsauken $5,500
Pine Hill $5,500
Stratford $5,500

Cape May County

Lower Township $5,500
Middle Township $5,500
North Wildwood $5,500

Cumberland County

Bridgeton $5,500
Vineland $5,500

Essex County

Bloomfield $5,500
Essex County Sheriff $5,500

Gloucester County

Deptford $5,500
East Greenwich $2,200
Elk $2,200
Glassboro $5,500
Greenwich $1,760
Harrison $2,200
Logan $2,200
Mantua $5,500
Monroe $2,200
Pitman $2,200
Rowan University $2,640
Washington $5,500
Westville $2,640
Woolwich $2,640

Hudson County

Guttenberg $5,500
Hoboken $5,500
Hudson County Sheriff $5,500
Jersey City $5,500
Kearny $5,500
Union City $5,500

Hunterdon County

Clinton $5,500
Lebanon $2,640
West Amwell $2,640
Mercer County

Ewing $5,500
Hamilton $5,500
Hightstown $5,500
Trenton, $5,500

Middlesex County

Dunellen $5,500
Edison $5,500
Monroe $5,500
North Brunswick $5,500
Old Bridge $5,500
Sayreville $5,500

Monmouth County

Allentown $5,500
Brielle $5,500
Eatontown $5,500
Howell $5,500
Middletown $5,500

Morris County

Chester Township $5,500
Hanover $5,500
Jefferson $5,500
Morris County Park Police $5,500
Morristown $5,500
Parsippany-Troy Hills $5,500
Rockaway Borough $5,500
Rockaway Township $5,500

Ocean County

Berkeley $5,500
Jackson $5,500
Seaside Heights $5,500

Passaic County

Bloomingdale $5,500
Clifton $5,500
City of Passaic $5,500
Passaic County Sheriff $5,500
Paterson $5,500
Pompton Lakes $5,500
Woodland Park $5,500

Salem County

Carneys Point $5,500

Somerset County

Bedminster $2,640
Branchburg $2,640
Green Brook $2,640
Hillsborough $2,640
Manville $2,640
Montgomery $2,640
Somerville $2,640
South Bound Brook $2,640
Warren $2,640

Sussex County

Franklin Borough $5,500
Hopatcong $5,500
Sparta $5,500
Vernon $5,500

Union County

Linden $5,500
Union Township $5,500

Warren County

Hackettstown $5,500

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Latest New Jersey Weed Legalization Bill Allows For Pot Delivery And Cannabis Consumption Lounges

Legal weed is a possibility for New Jersey this year. While the state currently allows medicinal use of cannabis for residents with a prescription, the legalization of recreational use and possession would change the game in a major way. Currently, there are only six medical marijuana dispensaries in all of New Jersey. If legal recreational weed becomes a reality, that number could grow exponentially.

Cannabis could be delivered to users’ doorsteps, like a hot and ready pizza. Hotels and casinos would be allowed to dedicate up to 20% of their available space to creating areas for guests to use legal weed. Those cities who chose not to opt out of legalization would have the option to tax cannabis products up to 3%, resulting in major financial gains.

After two long years of bargains and debates, only 10 more votes are needed between the Senate and the Assembly for the Cannabis Regulatory and Expungement Aid Modernization Act to pass. Remaining details, like how many dispensaries would be allowed throughout the state, would be left up to the Cannabis Regulatory Commission. The five-person commission would separately regulate both recreational and medical marijuana. Recreational purchases would be taxed, while medicinal purchases would be exempt.

As the bill currently stands, cannabis growers would be taxed at a rate of $42 per ounce. Cities that allow dispensaries would also be permitted to tax those businesses, along with growers and wholesalers. Before these tax guidelines were even announced, over 60 cities and towns made the decision to ban weed related businesses. The fact that polls show over 60% of New Jersey residents supporting legalization is hoped to bring many towns around to participating at some point in the future.

The current weed legalization bill in New Jersey is unique from those in other states for three reasons. First, licenses would only be given out to applicants who had been living in the state for at least two years. Secondly, the commission would be required to award 30% of licenses to African Americans, women, and disabled veterans. Finally, 25% of licenses would be given to microbusiness owners. These provisions are designed to offset the former disproportionate targeting of minorities for marijuana-related arrests and to shield the new weed industry from being immediately snatched up by big business. In addition, residents with past marijuana convictions would see their records expunged.

While opponents voice concerns over marijuana use and driving, the writing may already be on the wall. As neighboring states consider legalization and the revenue it promises, New Jersey could be hit hard, financially, if it passes over this opportunity. Current medical dispensaries across the state fully expect the new bill to pass and are preparing expansions in order to provide for the explosion of recreational consumers.

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Driving, Drugs And The DRE

Would you trust a non-medical professional to take an accurate measure of your pulse or blood pressure? If you are feeling ill, would you make an appointment with anyone other than a doctor for a diagnosis? Of course you wouldn’t . Yet, certain police officers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania are performing these types of routine medical procedures during DUI investigations when drug use is suspected.

Specifically, these police officers refer to themselves as Drug Recognition Experts or DREs. DREs believe that by using a 12-step evaluation process it can be determined if a driver is under of the influence of drugs in one or more of 7 drug categories.

During the 12-step evaluation process, the officer must perform the following physical evaluations:

  • Check blood pressure;
  • Check pulse;
  • Measure size of the pupils;
  • Check muscle tone;
  • Check body temperature; and
  • Check pupil reaction of eyes to various lighting conditions.

Based on the physical conditions noted and performance of field sobriety tests, the DRE will state if a driver is under the influence of a narcotic analgesic, CNS stimulant, CNS depressant, dissociative anesthetic, hallucinogen, inhalant, cannabis or combination of drugs.

To become a DRE, a police officer need not receive formal medical training to perform the various evaluations mentioned above. Instead, fellow police instructors train the DREs how to measure blood pressure, pulse, muscle tone and pupil size. Furthermore, these instructors are not required to have formal medical training.

Moreover, the DRE is not required to have taken any academic courses concerning the recognition and effects of drugs on the body (that is pharmacology or toxicology).

Is the description of this evaluation process starting to seem bizarre to you? Well, it should seem strange, because DREs are making medical determinations that are being used in court to convict drivers.

To effectively fight this junk science in court, proper legal challenges must be made to prohibit the DRE evaluation from being used as evidence of DUI. Finally, challenges must be made concerning the qualifications of the DRE to perform this evaluation and any errors made during the evaluation process. Otherwise, an innocent driver may lose his or her license and may be spending some time in jail.

Don’t Drink And Fly Drones In New Jersey; It’s Illegal!

On his last day in office, Gov. Chris Christie made it illegal to drive a drone for individuals affected by drugs or with a blood alcohol content of .08 percent in New Jersey. Punishments incorporate a six-month jail imprisonment, a $1,000 fine, or can be both depending on the situation. Similarly, it also bars individuals from flying drones to surveil prisons, chase wildlife, or interfere with first responders.

In 2015, an intoxicated government employee incidentally smashed a drone onto the White House grounds. However, he was not charged subsequently after being tracked down. At least one person has been into trouble when being drunk and caught flying a drone.

Although flying a drone while impaired hasn’t caused any major harm up to this point, but one can envision how much havoc it could create if a pilot is not composed enough and could wreck devastation in the skies. In October, an automaton flying 1,500 feet over the ground in Quebec collided with a traveler plane, which sustained minor harm, yet managed to arrive securely. Canada’s transportation minister told journalists that the drone could have harmed the motor, conceivably prompting “disastrous consequences.” The following month, a drone operator in New York flew his mysterious vehicle into a Dark Peddle helicopter possessed by the U.S. Armed force, smashing its window casing and leaving a one-and-a-half-inch imprint in a rotor blade. There’s no sign that the drone pilot was impaired, but imagine the loss if he had been.

In 2017 in the U.S, more than 3.1 million drones were sold, which makes it a 28 percent increase from the last year sales. Drone flying turns out to be more popular each year when it comes to recreation and people in New Jersey can anticipate more regulations regarding this recreational activity. As indicated by the National Conference of State Legislatures, no less than 38 states are investigating laws controlling drones utilization this year.

So BEWARE not to Drink and Fly a Drone.

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More Than 20K DWI Cases Under Review After A State Police Sergeant Accused Of Falsifying Records

TRENTON – More than 20,000 people, who are facing drunken driving charges, are being contacted by prosecutors in New Jersey as their cases are under review.

According to police reports, the decision was taken after a State Police sergeant was accused of falsifying DWI records. The sergeant oversaw breath-testing devices, also known as Alcotest devices.

Letters are being sent to people charged with DWI between the years 2008 to 2016 by county prosecutors. According to the letters, a specially appointed judge will decide whether or not they are entitled to relief. Decisions will be made based on the accusations being faced by the sergeant.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys are of the opinion that many cases may be thrown out as a result of the criminal inquiry against the sergeant. However, the issue can result in a number of legal challenges that can take years to sort out.

The issue arose sometime last year during a probe of the State Police drug lab which revealed that Sgt. Marc Dennis lied on official documents about completing a legally required step in re-calibrating the machines. Dennis was a coordinator in the State Police Alcohol Drug Testing Unit, who was given the responsibility to recalibrate the drug testing machines. These devises are used to check the blood-alcohol level of accused drunken drivers.

It was observed that Dennis skipped the step in calibrating three machines. However, the sergeant denies the charges against him.

The criminal accusations against the sergeant raise a cloud of doubt, as the authenticity of every device touched by the trooper is under question now. These devices were used by local police across five different counties.

Letters were sent to DWI defendants in the five counties, namely Monmouth, Somerset, Middlesex, Ocean, and Union counties. The letters stated, “Sergeant Dennis’ alleged false swearing and improper calibrations of these three instruments may call into question all of the calibrations performed by Sergeant Dennis over the course of his career as a coordinator.”

Court records show that Dennis faced multiple charges in September 2016, including second-degree official misconduct, third-degree tampering with public records and fourth degree falsifying records. He was indicted on the same charges in December. However, the misconduct charge was later dropped in June in a second indictment.

According to his attorney, Robert Ebberup, Dennis denied any wrongdoing. Ebberup said that he is sure that his client will be exonerated.

A total of 20,667 cases are under review by Joseph Lisa, a retired appellate judge, who is sorting through the cases affected due to the allegation against the sergeant.

Lisa has been appointed as “special master,” who will rule on whether the alleged charge against Dennis, of failing to perform a preliminary temperature check, would “undermine or call into question the scientific reliability of breath tests subsequently performed” on those devices.

Although the preliminary temperature check was legally required, it was not scientifically necessary, as stated by the Division of Criminal Justice.

Like in most states, the legal limit allowed for driving in the state of New Jersey is 0.08 percent, and anyone registering a BAC of 0.10 or higher will have to face tougher penalties. However, defense attorneys argue that since minor differences of a few decimal points can put someone’s life in jeopardy, the test results become unreliable if protocols weren’t followed when conducting the tests.

A hearing date on the matter is yet to be decided.

Defendants affected by the incident may also file a potential class-action lawsuit against the state in federal court.

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Scientists Still Looking For A Reliable DUI Test For Marijuana

Recent years have seen numerous milestones when it comes to the use of marijuana and it’s perception around the United States. Not only is Marijuana nearly as socially accepted as alcohol in today’s world, its recreational use is now legal in six states, including Colorado. Ironically, its legal status creates a new problem for law enforcement, stopping and charging drivers high on marijuana.

“It’s a brave new world,” declared Chris Halsor, a Denver lawyer and former prosecutor in reference to Colorado’s recent laws which legalize marijuana’s recreational use.

To train law enforcement for this new problem, police officers are partaking in new training exercises and activities which would help them better identify drivers high on marijuana. One such training exercise took place in spring this year with 16 state patrol officers from Colorado and Wyoming. The exercise involved the officers going shopping at legal marijuana dispensaries to examine different marijuana products and paraphernalia.

The second part of the exercise involved four volunteers consuming large quantities of marijuana provided by law enforcement. The point of this part of the exercise was to show the officers signs of marijuana inebriation and to gauge whether tests they use to identify drunk drivers also work on drivers who are high on marijuana. The results lacked consistency though, because all the volunteers performed differently on different tests. For example, a volunteer named Christine did well on math but didn’t do well on tests such as balancing, remembering instructions or measuring time. Officers also decided that if they had pulled Christine over, they would have arrested her because she would be a danger behind the wheel. However, they couldn’t say the same for other participants who had smoked just as much marijuana.

The problem with marijuana is that despite the increasingly legal use of cannabis in many states, police officers still don’t have the equivalent of a reliable alcohol breathalyzer or blood test — a chemically based method of estimating the level of inebriation caused by the drug. A blood test exists that can detect some of marijuana’s components. However, in case of marijuana, there is no widely accepted, standardized amount in the breath or blood that gives police or courts a good sense of who is considered impaired. Hence, the decision of whether to charge someone for driving while under the influence of cannabis is up to the police officers best guess.

There is a national effort underway by scientists to create a device that would work the same way for marijuana as breathalyzers do for alcohol. One of these is chemical engineer Tara Lovestead, who is working on setting chemical standards for what a marijuana detection test might require. However, Lovesteads’ research is hindered by the federal scheduling of the drug. Since cannabis is still a schedule 1 drug, meaning the federal government considers it a substance “with no medical use with a high potential of abuse,” she cannot use marijuana for her research, despite the fact that her research facility is located in Colorado.

“We cannot use the stuff down the street,” bemoaned Lovestead.

In states like Colorado, there is a THC blood test that law enforcement uses to show “presumed” impairment. If a person has more than 5 nanograms of THC per millilitre of blood, a court or jury can infer them to be impaired.

But Lovestead and others maintain that, scientifically speaking, that figure is quite meaningless.

“We just don’t know whether or not that means they’re still intoxicated, or impaired or not,” she said. “There’s no quantitative measure that could stand up in a court of law.”

Whereas ethanol, the chemical in alcoholic drinks is water soluble and is hence quickly distributed throughout the body and flushed from the body after a few hours, THC is fat soluble and can linger in the body’s fat stores for a long time, depending on a number of variables.

One particular marijuana study involved 30 frequent marijuana users staying at a facility with no access to marijuana for a month. Researchers saw that the heavy users were showing levels above 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood for several days after they had ceased using marijuana.

“And it shocked everyone, including ourselves, that we could measure, in some of these individuals, THC in the blood for 30 days,” says Marilyn Huestis, a toxicologist with the University of Maryland School of Medicine who recently retired from leading a lab at the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

On the other hand, another study showed that people who weren’t regular users could smoke a joint right in front of the researchers and show no evidence of cannabis in their blood reports.

So, in addition to being invasive and impractical, a blood test is also a poor measure for how inebriated a person is from marijuana use. In light of this, some scientists have turned to breath testing in hopes of creating something of use. Companies such as Cannabix Technologies and Hound Labs are currently in the process of creating devices that can measure the concentration of THC in a person’s breath to check if they have recently smoked marijuana. This is a difficult task as THC and other compounds present in cannabis have a very fleeting existence in the air. Luckily, Tara Lovestead specializes in finding trace quantities of compounds in the air. She and her team have worked on methods to use tiny air samples to detect evidence of arson, buried bodies and hidden explosives. Marijuana is the next challenge.

As things are progressing right now, the decision to charge drivers with being high on cannabis rests with the police officers best guess.

“It’s one of those subjective areas,” says Colorado State Patrol officer Rich Armstrong.

“It’s too subjective,” argues Tara Lovestead.

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