Appellate Division Upholds Refusal Statement

On January 27, 2016, the Appellate Division of New Jersey decided State v. Quintero. In this case, the defendant pled guilty to driving while intoxicated (N.J.S.A. 39:4-50) and refusal to submit to a breath test (N.J.S.A. 39:4-50.4a). Her attorney, Greggory M. Marootian, appealed the refusal charge arguing that the Attorney General’s standard statement is deficient because it does not specify the minimum mandatory penalties for this offense.

Under N.J.S.A. 39:4-50.2(e), the police officer is required to read a standard statement to the suspected drunk driver before he or she can be charged with refusal. The current statement form was revised by the Attorney General and became effective on July 1, 2012. Paragraph 6 of this form reads:

“If a court finds you guilty of the refusal, you will be subject to various penalties, including license revocation of up to 20 years, a fine of up to $2000, installation of an ignition interlock, and referral to an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center. These penalties may be in addition to penalties imposed by the court for any other offense of which you are found guilty.”

The defense argued that this statement is deficient because it does not mention that the defendant faces a mandatory minimum loss of license for a refusal conviction. Instead, it says “up to 20 years.” Likewise, the mandatory fine for a refusal conviction is minimum $300 to maximum $500 for a first offense and the installation of an ignition interlock device is required.

However, the Appellate Division ruled that the current statement sufficiently advises a suspected drunk driver of the penalties for refusal and upheld Ms. Quintero’s conviction.

It should be noted that the Appellate Division approved this decision for publication. Mr. Komninos will follow any developments in the event that this case is heard by the New Jersey Supreme Court.

The full cite for this case is State v. Quintero, A-2186-13T4 (January 27, 2016).