What “Intent to Operate” Means in New Jersey Drunk Driving Cases  

  • Dan T. Matrafajlo
  • Tue Mar 2023
  • DWI,
  • 0
dwi attorney

Most of us understand that if you are pulled over while driving and the officer determines that you are drunk, you will likely be accused of Driving While Intoxicated (DWI). However, what many don’t know is that you could be arrested for DWI even if you are outside of your vehicle and have your keys in your pocket or if you decide to take a nap to “sleep it off” with the keys in the ignition.

The Broad Interpretation of “Operation”

In order to be convicted of a DWI, New Jersey law holds that you must have been operating your vehicle. The courts have broadly interpreted the term “operation” to encompass more than just “driving” a vehicle. Operation, for instance, can include sitting or sleeping in a car, with the engine running, even when the car is not in actual motion. The NJ Supreme Court has recognized that the term “operation” may be found from evidence that would reveal the motorist’s intention to operate the car by running the engine or attempting to put the keys into the ignition.

Your Intention Counts

You can be convicted of a DWI under New Jersey drunk driving laws if you simply have the intent to operate your vehicle while you are intoxicated. This means you do not have to actually be operating your vehicle to be charged with drunk driving – having the intent to do so is enough.

However, since it is difficult to know what is going on in a person’s mind, the courts will look to circumstantial evidence in order to determine intent. The bottom line is that the prosecutor has the burden to prove that the accused had the intent to drive.

All of the vagueness and different interpretations of New Jersey drunk driving laws makes it imperative that you hire an aggressive New Jersey DWI attorney to fight the charges against you. Just because you have been charged with drunk driving does not mean that you will be convicted. It is imperative that you immediately consult with an attorney to protect your legal rights.

Contact Us Today!

If you have been arrested for a DWI offense, you should discuss your case, including any potential meritorious motions to suppress, with an experienced New Jersey DWI attorney. For more information or to schedule a free consultation with one of our skilled attorneys, please call Beninato & Matrafajlo Attorneys at Law, LLC at 908-248-4404.

Dan T. Matrafajlo

Dan T. Matrafajlo

NJ State Bar #: 031722003

Dan T. Matrafajlo, Esq., is the managing member and lead partner at Beninato and Matrafajlo, Attorneys at Law, LLC. Renowned for groundbreaking contributions to personal injury law, he has set legal precedents with influential Appellate decisions and garnered recognition in the New Jersey Law Journal. A consistent honoree on Super Lawyers' Rising Star list for the past five years, Matrafajlo's litigation prowess is widely acknowledged. He has won various awards like Super Lawyers, Thomson Reuters Association 2019, and Nominated into Super Lawyers as a Rising Star from 2012 until the Present.

  • logos