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“Thanks Tara for always believing in me and making me feel like I was your only client. You made the impossible possible. Forever grateful.”

- Gabriel V.

Sandy Hook, New Jersey Federal DWI Lawyer

Person Driving

Getting picked up for DWI in New Jersey is a headache, but being stopped on federal land such as Sandy Hook, NJ creates added complexity for a drunk driving case. New Jersey has considerable federal property, including military installations and National Parks. If you have been caught driving while intoxicated on federal land, you may be facing serious criminal penalties.

Tara Breslow-Testa and Associates is a leading New Jersey law firm dedicated to advocating for those facing criminal charges, including DWI. We can defend you from federal DWI charges (also known as federal DUI charges), just as we defended those who have been arraigned in state court. To begin pursuing a defense of the charges against you, please call our law offices today at 732-784-2880 or connect with us online to schedule a free consultation with a skilled New Jersey federal DWI lawyer at our firm.

As you prepare to meet with us, consider some of the most common questions our clients have concerning federal DWI charges.

What Is Federal DWI?

A federal DWI is an alleged impaired driving infraction that takes place on federal land. You'll need to defend against different statutes if you've been arrested for impaired driving in a National Park, as opposed to the statutes that will apply in your case if you've been arrested for driving while impaired on any other kind of federal land.

Which Court Will Hear My Case?

If you have been arrested for federal DWI, your case will likely be filed in federal district court. These courts are located in Trenton, Newark, and Camden. Attorney Breslow-Testa can appear in federal court to represent defendants. Not all New Jersey lawyers can help you if you're facing charges in federal court.

What Is Federal Land In New Jersey?

You could face federal DWI charges if you are accused of impaired driving while operating a vehicle at:

  • Sandy Hook, NJ
  • Federal building parking lots
  • Military bases, like Fort Dix and McGuire Air Force Base
  • National Parks, like Gateway National Recreation Area
  • Land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
Where Is Sandy Hook, NJ?

Sandy Hook is located in Middletown Township (Monmouth County, New Jersey). Sandy Hook was discovered by Henry Hudson, and for years the peninsula was used as an anchorage for ships approaching the Upper New York Harbor.

Residents and tourists alike flock to the Sandy Hook area mainly for the beaches lining the Atlantic shore and for the Henry Hudson trail. The area is also known for bed and breakfasts, including Navoo, Grand Lady by the Sea, Seascape Manor, and Sandy Hook Cottage. At least through 2019, Sandy Hook was also known for drinking and partying. Critically, officials have banned alcohol at Sandy Hook.

The National Park Service (part of the federal government) manages most of Sandy Hook. Both the federal government and Middletown have concurrent jurisdiction over the peninsula. This means that some of the Sandy Hook area falls under federal law and some falls under New Jersey law. For example, if you were inside Sandy Hook, you could be charged with federal DWI, but if you were outside of the park, you could be charged with DWI under New Jersey law.

What Law Applies If I Was Arrested At A National Park?

Specific regulations apply to DWI arrests made on lands administered by the National Park Service, such as Gateway National Recreation Area in Sandy Hook.

The relevant law defines DWI as operating or being in actual physical control of a motor vehicle when:

  • Your BAC is 0.08 or higher, or
  • You are under the influence of drugs or alcohol (or some combination) and can't operate the vehicle safely.
What Law Applies If I Was Arrested On Other Federal Property?

You could be arrested for DWI on other federal property that isn't a National Park, such as:

  • Fort Dix
  • Fort McGuire
  • Lakehurst Naval Air Station
  • Picatinny Arsenal
  • Naval Weapons Station Earle
  • Any federal property, such as a parking lot at the federal courthouse

When individuals are arrested on federal property in the Garden State other than National Park land, the federal government will prosecute alleged offenders according to New Jersey's DWI law. Even though they are prosecuting federal charges in federal court, they will apply New Jersey state law to the cases in question.

Why Does A Different Law Apply To Places Like Sandy Hook And At National Parks?

The federal government has a specific law in place for DWI activity in national parks. This law pre-empts any state law in conflict with it. The federal government, however, hasn't created specific DWI laws for other federal land.

As a result, the federal government can use a state law when prosecuting crimes on federal land as long as no federal law conflicts with that state law. In this way, the state law gets assimilated by the federal system in cases involving federal DWI charges. So, if you are arrested for DWI on federal property other than National Park land, you can face criminal charges in federal court and be prosecuted per the terms of New Jersey state law.

What Penalties Could I Face For A DWI At Sandy Hook?

Driving while impaired in a National Park is a Class B misdemeanor. You can face:

  • Up to six months in federal prison
  • Mandatory 30 days in prison
  • Maximum $5,000 fine

Once you are released from federal prison, you could face up to five years of probation. Federal DWI charges carry serious penalties and should, therefore, be countered with an aggressive defensive strategy.

What Penalties Could I Face For A DWI On Other Federal Property?

Under these circumstances, the court will apply the terms of New Jersey's DWI law. The penalties you may face will depend on your alleged BAC and whether this is a first or a subsequent DWI offense. New Jersey has recently revised its DWI laws, and Attorney Breslow-Testa remains at the forefront of these changes.

For example, if this is a first offense and your BAC was reportedly less than 0.10%, you'll potentially face:

  • Up to 30 days in jail
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) on your vehicle (otherwise, you'll forfeit the right to drive)
  • Fines and surcharges
  • Alcohol education course

If your BAC was reportedly 0.10% or higher, you could have your license suspended. Once your license is reinstated, you may be burdened by the installation of an IID for up to a year. If your BAC was allegedly over 0.15%, you may face a license suspension of 4-6 months and an IID must stay installed an additional 9-15 months after your driving privileges are restored. If you were impaired by drugs instead of alcohol, you could lose your license for 7-12 months.

Potential penalties only increase for second and subsequent offenses. For example, a second DWI conviction could result in up to 90 days in county jail and a license suspension for up to two years, as well as increased fines and surcharges. A third conviction could lead to 180 days in jail and an eight-year license suspension. Contact Attorney Breslow-Testa for more information about how to effectively defend against the risk of conviction.

Can I Be Punished If I Decline A Breathalyzer On Federal Property?

Yes. A federal implied consent law states that anyone operating a vehicle within the federal government's territorial jurisdiction consents to a chemical test of their breath, urine, or blood if they are arrested for impaired driving.

If you refuse to be tested, the federal government may prohibit you from driving on federal land for a full year from the date of your refusal. If you nonetheless drive and get caught, you can face additional criminal penalties as if you were driving with a suspended license.

The government can also use your refusal against you in court proceedings. This is significant since the judge will probably infer that you refused the test because you were impaired and didn't want that reality confirmed.

Should I Take A Chemical Test If I'm Arrested On Federal Property?

Yes. While the federal government can ban you from driving on federal land for a year as a result of your test refusal, a federal judge has no authority to ban you from driving on New Jersey's state roads for refusing a test. This may seem like a great excuse to refuse a test, as you may be able to avoid driving on federal land for a year. However, it's important to remember that unless you're arrested on National Park land, federal DWI arrests are prosecuted under New Jersey law.


New Jersey treats test refusal matters seriously. It is, therefore, generally a better idea to take a test and allow your lawyer to defend against that evidence than it is to simply refuse to be tested at all.

What Laws Apply To Bus Drivers Who Travel In Interstate Commerce And Face DWI Charges?

A bus carrying passengers across state lines is classified as a "common carrier." Because the bus crosses state lines, the federal government can enforce any federal criminal laws that apply to the driver. If you were driving a bus when you were pulled over for a suspected DWI, you can potentially face criminal charges as a driver carrying bus passengers even if you never entered federal land.

Attorney Breslow-Testa can represent any bus driver arrested on federal DWI charges. Under federal law, you can face up to 15 years in prison and be fined if you operate a common carrier while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. These are very steep penalties. You will also face collateral consequences, such as probably never working as a bus driver again. It is, therefore, critically important to build a strong defense on your behalf when grappling with bus-related DWI charges.

Are Civilians Arrested For DWI On A Military Base Treated Differently Than Servicemembers?

Potentially, yes. A servicemember can face charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Servicemembers face the risk of UCMJ-related punishments accordingly, such as a letter of reprimand, extra duties, or a court martial. These punishments may be levied in addition to any handed down by a judge assigned to any federal court case filed against them.

A civilian arrested on a military base is not subject to the UCMJ. Instead, they will only face DWI charges in federal court. The law that applies for DWI on a military base is New Jersey's DWI law, as described above. If you are married to a servicemember, for example, your case would be handled in federal court. Your spouse would face charges in federal court as well, in addition to UCMJ-related consequences.

Can Police Arrest Me For Impairment By Prescription Drugs?

Yes. You can be convicted of DWI if prescription medication prevented you from driving safely. Many prescription drugs have negative side effects. They might induce fatigue or impairment of your coordination. Remember, a doctor's prescription gives you the legal right to possess and ingest controlled substances. But the prescription doesn't give you a right to drive after taking them if they could potentially impair your ability to operate your vehicle safely.

Can A Lawyer Defend Against Federal DWI Charges?

Yes, as long as they're licensed to appear in federal court. In most situations, federal DWI cases are very similar to cases prosecuted in state court.

A skilled criminal defense attorney can raise several different defenses to DWI charges, including:

  • Police lacked reasonable suspicion to stop you.
  • Police did not have probable cause to arrest you.
  • You were not in control of the vehicle.
  • You were not intoxicated.
  • The prosecutor committed discovery violations warranting dismissal.
What Is Reasonable Suspicion To Stop Someone?

The Constitution protects all Americans from unreasonable searches and seizures. In a DWI context, the police need reasonable suspicion of a crime committed before they can lawfully engage in a stop. Reasonable suspicion is more than a guess or a simple desire to harass people. It involves solid facts pointing to the potential that you are committing a crime. Police also can't racially profile you or stop you because you aren't speaking English.

If you are swerving all over the road, then police have reasonable suspicion to pull you over. The same is true if you get into a crash and they come out to investigate. Reasonable suspicion gives police the right to briefly detain you. They cannot search you or your vehicle without probable cause.

When police lack reasonable suspicion, any stop that they choose to perform is unlawful. If you were stopped illegally, we can ask a judge to suppress the evidence gathered during the stop. Under these circumstances, we may be able to get the charges against your dropped because there won't be enough evidence available for the prosecution to successfully make its case.

When Do Police Have Probable Cause To Make An Arrest For Federal DWI At Sandy Hook?

Probable cause is a higher standard than reasonable suspicion. Police cannot search your vehicle or arrest you without it. For example, the police might have stopped you because your vehicle was swerving. But your eyes were not bloodshot, you spoke normally, and there was no smell of alcohol or marijuana. Under these circumstances, the police need to let you go. They can't order you to open the trunk or arrest you for DWI because they lack probable cause to believe a crime had been committed.

How Can I Successfully Challenge That I Had Control Of The Car?

This defense can be difficult to argue successfully. Prosecutors stretch the meaning of "control" so that this term can be used to describe someone simply sitting in the driver's seat of an unmoving vehicle. However, you can use this defense if you were a passenger, not a driver, in a DWI incident.

This defense is often helpful if police only make an arrest after arriving on scene to investigate an accident. All the passengers in your car might be standing around when an officer arrives, and they simply assume you were the driver. Under these circumstances, our firm can raise reasonable doubt about whether you really were at the wheel while you were intoxicated or otherwise impaired.

Can A Lawyer Challenge Whether I Was Intoxicated?

It might be the case that you weren't intoxicated or impaired when you were stopped. For example, drifting over the center line could have resulted from fatigue or fiddling with the dials. Your speech might have been slurred due to the cold. You can't be convicted of DWI for simply being an unsafe driver. If DWI charges are based on an officer's observations alone, we can always argue that you weren't intoxicated.

But asserting that you weren't intoxicated is a much harder defense to raise if you blew a high number on a breath test or the police took a urine or blood sample which shows you had alcohol or drugs in your system. Still, we might challenge these tests on various grounds. For example, a breath test machine might not have been calibrated recently, or officers weren't properly trained to use it.

When Does Prosecutorial Misconduct Warrant Dismissal?

A federal prosecutor might make a mistake that affects your case or violates your rights. For example, they might fail to disclose evidence that they intend to use against you, like testimony from witnesses at a bar. They might also fail to disclose evidence that helps your case (exculpatory evidence), such as problems with a breathalyzer machine used to test your BAC. We can ask a judge to dismiss the charges against you as a result of such serious mistakes.

Should I Just Plead Guilty To Federal DWI Charges?

No. Any conviction entered on your criminal record will not only result in penalties but will also count as a prior conviction down the road. This means that if you are arrested for a subsequent DWI, the penalties you could face for the same offense may increase substantially. Instead, review your charges with the assistance of a New Jersey federal DWI attorney. Making an effort to explore whether you can raise a strong defense may result in the dismissal of your charges, an acquittal in court, or mitigation of the consequences you'll face as a result of a conviction.

What Should I Do After Getting Stopped?

You do not need to answer the officer's questions. You'll need to identify yourself and show them your license and registration. But there is no need to answer any questions. Some people are convicted because they admit to an officer that they have been drinking. A prosecutor can introduce an out-of-court statement like that in a criminal case.

Ask for an attorney immediately. This should stop the police from questioning you. If it doesn't, just remember that Miranda rights empower you with the right to remain silent until an attorney arrives.

Why Should I Hire Attorney Breslow-Testa To Represent Me?

Defending criminal suspects in federal court requires knowledge of federal criminal procedure in addition to DWI law. Attorney Breslow-Testa can use her extensive knowledge to your advantage. For example, if our firm needs to suppress evidence on your behalf, she understands that the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure require that we file this motion before trial.

Because of her experience as an experienced DWI attorney, Attorney Breslow-Testa avoids simple mistakes that inexperienced lawyers tend to make. Federal court is its own system with its own prosecutors. You will likely be at a disadvantage if you hire someone who has only handled DWIs in state courtrooms.

Seasoned Federal DWI Lawyer / Sandy Hook DWI Lawyer

Federal DWI charges present unique challenges for defendants. Appearing in federal court is an intimidating experience for many, and being sent to federal prison to serve out a sentence is a scary experience. One way to take control of the situation you're facing is to hire an experienced federal DWI lawyer.

Attorney Breslow-Testa has extensive experience defending people accused of DWI including DWI offenses at Sandy Hook. She is comfortable moving between state and federal courts and stays on top of developments involving the science of blood alcohol concentration. Call our law offices at 732-784-2880 or connect with us online to schedule a free consultation with Tara Breslow-Testa and Associates today to learn more.

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