On December 6, 2019, I appeared for trial in the Hackensack City Municipal Court for a client who was charged with DWI (N.J.S.A. 39:4-50) with an alleged BAC of 0.17 and careless driving (N.J.S.A. 39:4-97). This meant that she was facing a license suspension of 7 months plus mandatory ignition interlock installation for the DWI as well as other penalties under the law at the time of her arrest.
During the trial, the prosecution had difficulty proving the 20-minute observation period. The police are required to continually observe a driver for 20 minutes before administrating the breath test in order to ensure that the driver does not burp, regurgitate, or put anything in his or her mouth before taking the breath test, which would skew the results. If the State cannot prove that the 20-minute period was conducted correctly, then the breath test result should be excluded from trial.
Because of this, I was able to convince the prosecutor to agree to exclude the breath test from the case, and my client pled guilty to DWI on the basis that she admitted to drinking alcohol and admitted that it impaired her ability to drive. Without the breath reading, this means that the finding of guilt in her case resulted in only a 3 months loss of driving privileges for the DWI charge.
Even though the penalties for DWI in New Jersey changed on December 1, 2019, you should still consider fighting the breath test results if you are charged with drunk driving. In other words, under the new penalties, excluding the breath reading from trial may mean that the driver can install an interlock device in his or her car in order to reduce the length of license forfeiture penalty of DWI.
For example, a driver with a breath test result of 0.15 or greater would lose his or her driving privileges for a period of 4 to 6 months. While the changes in the law are brand new and it remains to be seen how the courts deal with these changes, I predict that by excluding a breath test result of 0.15 or greater, a driver would be eligible to install an ignition interlock device to reduce his or her license suspension.
There are many defenses available to contest breath test results in DWI cases. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the breath results are infallible and you should just plead guilty. Attorneys such as myself who are dedicated to the practice of DWI/DUI defense have the skill and knowledge to fight breath test results.
I offer free consultations and can be reached at (201) 343-4622.