A New Jersey woman who allegedly refused to submit to a breath test in April 2012 had her conviction upheld in a state appeals court. The defendant was required to install an ignition interlock device on her vehicle, spend 48 hours in an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center and submit to a two-year license suspension.
The woman reportedly engaged in an ongoing exchange with police officers regarding whether or not she had a choice to submit or refuse to take a Breathalyzer test. Police were seeking a simple “yes” or “no” response from the woman when they asked her if she would submit a breath sample.
According to the court’s decision, an ambiguous or conditional response to a request for a breath test is a violation of the refusal statute. In her appeal, the defendant claimed that she asked if she had a choice but never refused to take the test.
Law enforcement officers are required to have reasonable grounds to ask a driver to submit to a Breathalyzer test. If it can be demonstrated in court that the police did not have probable cause to request that a driver take a breath test, the case might be dismissed. Alternatively, if a criminal defense attorney can make a compelling argument that a defendant was not being obstinate or refusing the test, the case may end with an acquittal. Plea bargaining is an option in many criminal cases; however, plea deals are prohibited by the New Jersey Attorney General in breath test refusal cases.
Source: State of New Jersey Office of the Attorney General Department of Law and Public Safety Division of Criminal Justice, Attorney General Guideline: Prosecution of DWI & Refusal Violations, Peter C. Harvey, Jan. 24, 2005
Source: NJ.com, “Clayton woman’s conviction for refusing breath test upheld“, Matt Gray, July 11, 2014