New Jersey law criminalizes driving under the influence, and thousands of motorists are pulled over for this offense every year. Police set up DWI checkpoints across New Jersey, funded in part by a special state Drunk Driving Enforcement Fund, and police agencies have scheduled “saturation details” with increasing frequency since January 2019. Drunk driving enforcement details involve high numbers of uniformed officers who patrol the roads looking for impaired drivers.
If you are identified as a potential drunk driver by law enforcement, officers can pull you over to investigate, and, if you further have an illegal firearm in the car, you may face additional legal penalties. This is exactly what happened to a man driving through Jersey City on Kennedy Boulevard recently, as reported by multiple news outlets. The situation is highly common in Hudson County and throughout New Jersey. If you have been charged with unlawful possession of a gun and are also facing DUI charges, it is important to understand the legal consequences of such an arrest. Please continue reading to learn more and contact us directly at (201) 793-8018 to speak with an NJ criminal defense lawyer about your unique case.
Arrested for DUI With an Illegal Firearm in Hudson County, NJ
New Jersey DUI law, NJ Rev Stat § 39:4-50, prohibits a person from operating a car if they are under the influence of alcohol or any drug that renders them unable to drive with the care and caution of a sober person under like circumstances. Police must have reasonable suspicion before they can pull you over for this offense; that means they must have specific, articulable facts that lead them to believe you were driving under the influence.
If you are driving at night without your lights on, fail to signal and then make an unsafe turn, weave in and out of traffic lanes, blow a stop sign or red light, or if you speed past a police cruiser, you are giving the police reasonable suspicion to stop your vehicle. If you smell like alcohol or marijuana, if you are on the nod from heroin, or if you are grinding your teeth due to meth, you are further giving officers probable cause to arrest you for DWI.
Once an officer has arrested you for DWI, that officer will likely need to move your vehicle off the roadway or away from the shoulder where it may have come to rest when the officer stopped you. As part of the arrest, police are generally permitted by law to conduct an inventory of the items in your car; this inventory search serves a number of administrative purposes, but it also often leads to the discovery of additional evidence, such as drugs or firearms, stored in the car. Under this common set of facts, your DWI charge may lead officers to a firearm in your car, which may lead to additional consequences in New Jersey.
Pulled Over for Drunk Driving and Police Found a Gun in My Car
If you have been stopped for a possible DUI and officers discover a weapon while searching your vehicle, there are several laws that may apply in this situation. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 23:4-24.1a prohibits you from transporting or holding a loaded firearm in your vehicle. To legally transport a firearm, you must lock it in a secure container or in your trunk, and you must keep it unloaded. Firearms must usually be transported between two authorized locations, such as between a licensed firearm dealer and your home, to and from a rifle or pistol club and your home, to or from a location for hunting or fishing, a target range, and the like. Penalties for violating this section can range from civil penalties from $50-$200, and additional and more serious charges may be filed if the police determine that the firearm in question is associated with drug activity or similar criminal conduct.
Additionally, if the gun in question is not licensed in New Jersey, you may be charged with unlawful possession of a weapon. This is undoubtedly surprising to many drivers who have legally bought and licensed their firearms in another state, but New Jersey does not allow you to bring those guns across state lines. People who may be visiting can find themselves under arrest for gun charges and a DWI case quickly becomes even more serious.
To read about an example of this, check out this article.