Drunk Drivers in NJ Face Arrest Even When Car Engines Are Off

NJTV News | September 8, 2016 | Social
The head of the Assembly Judiciary Committee plans to hold hearings on whether the law needs to be clarified

A New Jersey lawmaker says he is taking another look at the state’s drunk driving law, which allows motorists to be arrested and sometimes convicted as long as they were in their cars, even with the engine off and the key not in the ignition.

Steve Carrellas, director of government and public affairs for the New Jersey chapter of the National Motorists Association, argues the law, as currently interpreted, could actually encourage some drivers to operate their vehicles when they have had too much to drink. He said they might feel, if they are likely to be arrested while sleeping it off in a parked car, that they might as well try to get home.

Lawyer Jef Henninger said the law is also unfair because drivers can be acquitted or convicted based on a court’s subjective interpretation of whether they intended to drive. In one case, a man who said he planned to sleep in his car with the motor running for warmth until he sobered up was acquitted.

Assemblyman John McKeon, D-Essex, chair of the Judiciary Committee, said he believes the law as written works fairly well, but he plans to hold special hearings with testimony from lawyers and law enforcement.

Read the full story on NJTV News Online, a content partner of NJ Spotlight.