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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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New Jersey authorities initiate holiday DWI crackdown

Cape May readers who tuned in to last week’s discussion may be aware that the holiday season tends to correspond to an increase in accidents attributed to driving while intoxicated. Not surprisingly, the holiday season also leads to an increased effort by law enforcement to crack down on drunk driving.

In keeping with the seasonal theme, New Jersey’s Division of Highway Traffic Safety recently announced this year’s “Drive Sober, or Get Pulled Over” campaign, which will see increased patrols and sobriety checkpoints in effect between December 7 and January 2.

Unfortunately, statistics indicate that roughly one quarter of traffic fatalities during the month of December involve an intoxicated driver. Nearly three quarters of those fatalities involve a driver with a blood alcohol concentration approaching double the legal limit. During a time when people may be more likely than usual to get carried away in the spirit of celebration, safety concerns may justify stepping up law enforcement activities.

By the same token, the advance hype that goes into a concentrated law enforcement operation may also make some officers a bit overzealous in the pursuit of their duties. Last year’s holiday crackdown led to nearly 2,000 DWI arrests in addition to more than 4,000 seat belt violations and more than 8,000 speeding tickets. While the majority of those enforcement actions may have been founded on legitimate grounds, a certain portion may have crossed over the line of the protections afforded to each of us by the United States Constitution.

New Jersey residents should remember first and foremost this holiday season that drinking and driving is never a good idea. They should also remember, however, that every American is entitled to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty and that pursuit of even the most well-intentioned law enforcement campaign does not relieve police officers of their obligation to respect the constitutional rights of private citizens.

Source: Easton Patch, “Man Faces Thanksgiving DUI Charge,” Jack Tobias, Nov. 24, 2012

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