Intent to OperateMost people are aware of the fact that if you are pulled over while you are driving and an officer determines that you are drunk, you will likely be accused of Driving While Intoxicated (DWI). But did you know you could be arrested for DWI even if you are outside of your car and have your keys in your pocket or if you decide to take a nap to “sleep it off” with the keys in the ignition.

Your Intention Matters

Under New Jersey law, you can be convicted of DWI if you have the intent to operate your vehicle while you are drunk. Of course, it is impossible to know what is going on in a person’s mind, so courts look to circumstantial evidence in order to determine intent.

For example, in State v. Daly, a man was drinking at a tavern in the winter and, when he realized he had “a bit too much to drive,” decided to get some sleep in his car. Because it was winter, he decided to turn his car on to use the heater.

He was convicted by the trial court, but on appeal, the appellate court found that there was insufficient evidence to indicate that he had intended to drive the car. Some of the factors that the court indicated were in the defendant’s favor were the fact that his seat was reclined, the headlights were off, and the driver stated to the arresting officer that he was running the engine to keep warm. In addition, the defendant had been in his car for at least an hour and twenty minutes before the police arrived.

Modern Courts May Treat Daly Differently

It is important to note that the Daly case was decided in 1973, and public attitudes regarding drunk driving have changed significantly since then. That being said, under the current law, the prosecution must still be able to establish intent to drive in cases in which a driver was not actually driving a vehicle in order to obtain a conviction.

Call 732-662-7658 today for a free consultation.

A New Jersey DWI conviction can have an extremely negative impact on your life. Fortunately, there are often ways that an attorney can help ensure that your case is resolved as favorably as possible. To schedule a free consultation with New Jersey criminal defense attorney Leon Matchin, call our office today at 732-662-7658 or contact us online.