New Jersey Court Discusses the State’s Burden of Proof in DWI Refusal Cases

Typically, when the police suspect a person is guilty of driving while intoxicated, they will request that the person provide a breath sample. As New Jersey’s implied consent laws require drivers to submit to a breath test, the failure to do so may result in a refusal charge in addition to other DWI offenses. Recently, a New Jersey court clarified the State’s burden of proof in cases involving refusal, in an opinion in which the defendant argued there was insufficient evidence to uphold her conviction. If you live in New Jersey and are accused of refusing to submit to a breath test or another DWI related crime, it is advisable to talk to a New Jersey DWI defense attorney regarding what evidence the State must produce to convict you.

History of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was involved in an accident on an evening in September 2017. Specifically, she drove her car into the side of another car that was stopped at a red light. A police officer investigating the accident spoke with the defendant and noticed that her speech was slurred and her eyes were glassy. She appeared confused as well but denied that she consumed alcohol or took any medication.

Allegedly, per the officer’s request, the defendant performed field sobriety tests, but she was unable to complete them. The officer then arrested the defendant for DWI and transported her to the police station. Once at the station, the defendant refused to submit to a breath test. She was subsequently charged with DWI, reckless driving, and refusal to submit to a breath test. She was convicted of refusal and careless driving, after which she appealed, arguing there was insufficient evidence to uphold her refusal conviction.

The State’s Burden of Proof in Refusal Cases

On appeal, the court explained that the New Jersey refusal statute provides that the State must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the arresting officer had probable cause to believe that a person driving the car was under the influence of alcohol and that the person was placed under arrest and refused to submit to a breath test. The court clarified, however, that although the law set forth a preponderance of evidence standard, the required burden of proof was beyond a reasonable doubt, as a breath test refusal case is a quasi-criminal matter.

The court noted that while guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, proving there was probable cause to arrest a person was a lower threshold. In the subject case, the court found that there was ample evidence that the arresting officer had reason to believe that the defendant was operating a vehicle in violation of the DWI laws. Thus, her convictions were affirmed.

Meet with a Trusted New Jersey DWI Defense Attorney

If you are accused of a first offense DUI in New Jersey, you should speak to an attorney regarding your rights. The trusted New Jersey DWI defense attorneys of The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall possess the skills and experience needed to obtain good results, and if you hire us, we will advocate tirelessly on your behalf. You can reach us through our form online or at 877-450-8301 to set up a conference.

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