Reasonable Suspicion of a Violation

In order for a traffic stop to be valid in New Jersey, there must be reasonable suspicion that a motor vehicle violation has been committed. There is significant case law in New Jersey concerning proper traffic stops leading to drinking and driving charges. First, under State v. Carpentieri, 82 N.J. 546 (1980), the New Jersey Supreme Court held that the police must have an articulable and reasonable suspicion that a violation of the traffic laws has occurred in order to effectuate a stop for DWI. Next, in State v. Pegeese 351 N.J. Super 25 (2002), the court held that the police may not detain occupant for consent search absence violation or criminal conduct once evidence of proper licensing, registration and the like is supplied. Finally, in State v. Pitcher 379 N.J. Super 308 (2005), the court decided that a stop based on an officer’s mistaken understanding of a fact, e.g., that the driver had a suspended license, will not be invalidated provided the officer’s actions were supported by a “reasonable” belief that the related facts were accurate. The court held that officer’s traffic stop, conducted in reliance on erroneous information in the DMV database that showed that the defendant had a suspended license, was reasonable.

Therefore, for a DWI charge to hold up, there must be a proper traffic stop supported by reasonable suspicion.