In NJ, whether you were ‘operating the vehicle’ is an essential part of the case the State needs to prove. It is not required that the State prove that you were actually driving the vehicle, it is sufficient for the State to prove that it was in a ‘state’ of operation.
But I was just Sitting There Warming the Car Up!
If the key was in the ignition with you in the driver’s seat and the engine was running, you are ‘operating’ the vehicle within the meaning of the Statute. Even if you were not intending to put the car in gear, the starting of the engine itself becomes the ‘operation’, and does not require that the State prove you moved the vehicle. It does not matter what the outside temperature was, the fact that you were ‘sleeping it off with the engine running so the heater would work can be enough to satisfy this element of the charge. If you operated the car, driving to the location where you then stopped to ‘sleep it off’, the element is satisfied, even if you had stopped the car by the time the cops saw you.
Did the cops see you ‘operating’ the vehicle, or did you tell them you did?
In many cases, the cops see the person behind the wheel of the car, or in a position where it is obvious that they had just gotten out of the vehicle. In some cases, the person is not seen ‘operating’ the vehicle, and the police ask questions of the ‘driver’, to see if they admit they had been driving the vehicle. Sometimes there has been an accident and the cops want to talk to you about ‘what happened’. The cops do not have to give you your Miranda warnings before they question you. If you consumed alcoholic beverages and admit that you were driving the vehicle at the time of the accident; that will be sufficient to establish ‘operation’, and the police will issue you the DWI ticket.
If you are charged with driving while intoxicated, consult immediately with an experienced criminal defense lawyer to determine what issues can be used to defend your license. Call Howard Bailey at 973-982-1200 for a free consultation before you make any decisions on how to resolve this ticket.