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May 20, 2011

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New Jersey Supreme Court Rules on Effect of Breath Test Refusal

New Jersey’s Supreme Court recently ruled unanimously that a past conviction for refusal to submit to a breath test does not count as a prior offense for DWI sentencing. This means that a person will still be sentenced as a first time offender even though she may have previously been convicted of refusing to submit to a breath test.

Applying that logic the Supreme Court found that the defendant in the case, State v. Ciancaglini, should be sentenced as a first time offender even though she was convicted for refusing to take a breath test in 2006 (and even though she had a prior DWI conviction in 1979, beyond the ten year look back period).

This is still a law you never want to test however. First, it’s not safe, and there are severe penalties for drivers who injure others while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Second, there are severe penalties for refusing to submit to the breath test.

Finally, despite her “win,” Ms. Ciancaglini still lost her license for one year, paid significant fines, and was sentenced to 30 days in the county jail.

State v. Ciancaglini –NJ –(2011).

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