I represented a client today in Newark Municipal Court who was charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI) in violation of N.J.S. 39:4-50 and refusal to submit to a breath test in violation of N.J.S. 39:4-50.2. This was my client’s first alleged offense and she was facing a seven-month driver’s license suspension on the refusal charge and a three-month license suspension on the DWI. She was also facing the DWI surcharges which are $1,000.00 a year for three (3) years.
The facts are as follows: My client was allegedly involved in a motor vehicle accident on the New Jersey Turnpike when her vehicle hit a guardrail. The state police responded and my client was taken to the hospital. The airbag in her vehicle deployed and she may have had a concussion. The state trooper allegedly smelled alcohol on her breath and arrested her for driving while intoxicated (DWI). However, no field sobriety tests were conducted at the scene. At the hospital, the police requested that my client submit to a blood test or a urine test to test the blood alcohol content (BAC) in her blood. She allegedly refused. As a result, she was charged with DWI, refusal, and several other motor vehicle tickets based on the accident.
I was retained to represent the defendant and immediately noticed major issues with the State’s case. First, the police officer never requested that the defendant submit to a breath test. Therefore, the defendant was improperly charged with refusal because the refusal statute only governs the refusal to submit to a breath test. Refusal to submit to a blood test is not a violation; the police have the right to take blood in these types of cases where a motor vehicle accident occurred and the defendant was taken to the hospital for treatment. In this case, the police failed to take blood and could not prove the defendant’s level of intoxication (if any). Further, because the officer failed to conduct field sobriety tests, the state would have a very difficult time proving the DWI charge as well.
Based on these issues of proof, I was able to negotiate a plea bargain with the State. The State agreed to dismiss the DWI charge and the refusal charge as well as all the other tickets and the defendant plead guilty to reckless driving with a sixty (60) day license suspension. This was a great result for the firm and my client.