DWI Law in New Jersey: Operating a Vehicle

Here are a few case summaries of important case law in New Jersey regarding w operation of a vehicle:

State v. Mulcahy, 107 N.J. 467 (1987)

The important precedent from this case is that the key to establishing operation is whether or not the defendant intended to operate the vehicle. The Supreme Court of New Jersey held that police officers, who saw defendant, who was drunk, stagger out of tavern into car that was illegally parked on sidewalk, could arrest defendant for purposes of submission to sobriety test when defendant started to put keys in the ignition. The defendant’s attempt to place keys in the ignition was “operation” of motor vehicle sufficient to warrant submission to the breathalyzer test.

State v. Daly, 64 N.J. 122 (1973)

The defendant did not possess an “intent” to operate his car notwithstanding the fact that the car was running insofar as he had been sleeping in the car with the heat on for almost 1.5 hours prior to police arriving.

State v. DiFrancisco, 232 N.J.Super. 317 (LawDiv.1988)

A defendant does not “operate” a motor vehicle under the DWI statute where it is impossible to move the vehicle. Defendant who was sitting behind steering wheel of pickup truck which was partially on a driveway and partially in a ditch and which, according to officer, could not be moved was not “operating” the truck and thus could not be convicted of driving while intoxicated.

In the absence of any evidence from the State showing that breathalyzer test was administered within a reasonable time after defendant was stopped for drunk driving, breathalyzer test results were inadmissible.