Fans of old movies will remember that W. C. Fields would often escape apprehension by crossing the county line before the police could catch up with him. Unfortunately, that old trick doesn't work in today's world, as a recent New Jersey appellate decision points out.
In the case of State v. Sylvia, which originated here in Gloucester County, the defendant was first observed by the police officer driving his car in Woodbury Heights with a headlight out and an expired inspection sticker.
The officer followed behind him, but by the time the traffic stop was made, they were in West Deptford. Subsequent interaction with the driver and his passenger led to the driver's arrest for DWI. After being taken to the police station, however, he refused to take the breathalyzer and was charged with that as well.
Mr. Sylvia was convicted in municipal court of DUI and refusal and appealed, stating that Woodbury Heights did not have jurisdiction to prosecute the case. The appellate court observed, however, that the violation of driving under the influence is "continuing." When "commenced in one municipality and ended in another," it can be prosecuted in either town.
It ruled that the fact that the defendant was initially observed operating a motor vehicle in one jurisdiction but was arrested in a neighboring town for DWI did not deprive the municipal court in the first town of jurisdiction to try the case.
Jurisdiction is an important issue in any traffic court case and should be considered carefully as a defense. If you have been charged with drunk driving in southern New Jersey, please feel free to call me at 856-432-4113 or contact me through this site to schedule a free consultation. If you are looking for more information on New Jersey's drunk driving law, then download my free book, How Much Trouble Am I In? A Guide to New Jersey Drunk Driving Law.
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