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Police Don’t Need to Issue Specific Warnings before DWI Breath Tests, New Jersey Court Says

An appeals court has ruled in an important drunk driving case that could have serious consequences for Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) laws in New Jersey.

On December 7, 2012, Iris Quintero was driving on a road in Roselle Park, NJ, when she got pulled over by a traffic cop due to a blown out tire. Quintero had just left a local bar, where she allegedly drank several vodka cocktails, causing her to become intoxicated. The police officer observed that Quintero appeared to be under the influence of alcohol, so he placed her under arrest and transported her to Roselle Park police headquarters. Once they got to the station, police asked Quintero to take a DWI breath test; she refused.

DWI and Refusal Penalties in New Jersey

The penalties for a DWI offense in New Jersey can be severe, often including driver’s license suspension for an extended period of time, mandatory installation of ignition interlock devices on vehicles and required attendance at alcohol education classes. As a result of the stiff penalties for a DWI conviction in NJ, many drivers mistakenly believe that they should always refuse to take a breath test when requested by police. However, the reality is that this can lead to an additional charge of Refusal to Submit to a Breath Test, which carries a minimum mandatory period of license suspension. Moreover, it is often difficult to challenge a Refusal charge because there is no evidence to contest.

In Quintero’s case, the Refusal charge resulted in her NJ driver’s license being suspended for a period of seven months. Quintero then appealed her conviction, arguing that Roselle Park police never informed her of the possible penalties – particularly the minimum sentence she would receive – before she refused to take the breathalyzer test.

Although police provided her with a standard form stating that the maximum sentence for refusing to take a breath test includes license revocation of up to 20 years, Quintero said that she had no way of knowing that “up to 20 years” included a minimum license revocation period of seven months.

Now a New Jersey Appellate Division court has ruled against Quintero, with the court’s three-judge panel stating that the standard police warnings provided in Refusal cases are sufficient. When issuing the ruling, the NJ court also acknowledged that Quintero probably would not have submitted to a breath test even if she had been told the minimum penalties for Refusal.

To learn more about this important DWI/DUI case, access the New Jersey Law Journal article, “NJ Court Rejects Challenge to Breath-Test Refusal Warnings.”

 

If you have been charged with first offense DWI, Driving Under the Influence (DUI) or Refusal to Submit to a Breath Test in New Jersey, it is imperative that you hire an experienced and aggressive criminal defense attorney to fight for your rights and protect your license. Contact the Law Firm of Stephen R. Piper today for a consultation about your charges.

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