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STATE v. HENDRICKS — NEW JERSEY MURDER TRIAL — "NOT GUILTY" VERDICT

Mr. Tumelty represented Helena Hendricks, who was charged with first degree murder in Atlantic County Superior Court. The defendant faced a number of additional charges, including armed robbery, conspiracy and possession of a handgun for an unlawful purpose. At the conclusion of a jury trial that lasted three weeks, the defendant was found "not guilty" of all charges.

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22-year-old New Jersey woman arrested for drunk driving

On a Thursday at around 11:40 p.m., Sparta police received multiple calls reporting a potential drunk driver. According to authorities, what appeared to be a black Buick that was allegedly driven erratically was stopped. The driver arrested for driving while intoxicated and other charges.

The officer who stopped the 22-year-old female driver supposedly smelled alcohol on her breath, and allegedly saw two partially consumed vodka bottles in the vehicle. According to police, the driver purportedly failed several field sobriety tests and had a blood alcohol content level three times the legal New Jersey limit of .08 percent.

The above case illustrates several points that people involved in drunk driving arrests should be aware. First, officers must have “reasonable suspicion” that a violation is being committed to stop a vehicle. For instance, if a person drives erratically, that gives the police reasonable suspicion to stop the vehicle and investigate.

The second point is that once a stop is made, however, the Fourth Amendment provides some limits to officers’ rights to search a vehicle. Generally an officer can search a vehicle only if the driver gives permission, the officer has “probable cause” to believe a vehicle has evidence of a crime, a search is related to a lawful arrest, the officer reasonably believes it is necessary for his own protection or the search is pursuant to a warrant. Also, anything left in “plain sight” that is evidence of a crime can be confiscated and can lead to further searches.

Thirdly, blood alcohol tests can be challenged. The calibration of the equipment and other factors may be involved in making a test invalid.

Residents of New Jersey who are arrested for drunk driving need to be cognizant of their rights, and make the best effort they can to mount a legal defense. This is especially important considering that conviction can mean the loss of a license and other serious penalties. There are ways of challenging an arrest and the evidence against an individual as the police are governed by many rules that may have been broken.

Source: nj.com, “Driver’s blood-alcohol level was 3X over the legal limit, Sparta police say,” Brendan Kuty, March 24, 2013

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