Appellate Division Upholds Ridgefield Park DWI Conviction

On September 1, 2015, the Appellate Division of New Jersey upheld the defendant’s conviction in State v. Haye. This drunk driving case involved two main issues: 1) the police failed to conduct the 20 minute observation period; and 2) the trial court erroneously allowed the admission of testimony regarding the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus results.

The 20 minute observation period:

In State v. Chun, the New Jersey Supreme Court previously ruled that the police must observe a drunk driving arrestee for 20 minutes before administering the breath test. This reasoning behind this is to avoid inaccurate breath samples. If an arrestee burps, regurgitates, or puts anything in his or her mouth, it could affect the results of the breath test.

In State v. Haye, the issue was that the time stamp of the breath test report and the time of the traffic stop did not realistically provide enough of a time period during which the defendant could be observed for 20 minutes. The police officer testified that the breath test machine did not account for Daylight Savings Time. The Appellate Division found that the officer’s testimony was credible and ruled the breath test was valid.

The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus results:

The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test is one of the three Field Sobriety Tests described in the DWI Detection & Standardized Field Sobriety Testing Student Manual. During this test, the police officer looks into the driver’s eyes for involuntary jerking of the eyes that could be caused by intoxication.

In State v. Doriguzzi, the Appellate Division previously ruled that HGN results are not scientifically reliable. However, in State v. Haye, the Appellate Division ruled that even though the judge properly disregarded the HGN results as evidence of guilt, there was more than enough evidence to convict Haye of drunk driving.