New Jersey Appellate Court Considers Police Officers’ Disclosure Requirements Regarding Ignition Interlock Devices After DWI Arrests

ignition interlock deviceNew Jersey’s implied consent law makes it a traffic offense to refuse to submit a breath sample during a driving while intoxicated (DWI) investigation. Because of the wide range of possible consequences for refusal, state law requires police to read a “standard statement” detailing those consequences before requesting a breath sample. Several years ago, the New Jersey Legislature made the use of an ignition interlock device (IID) mandatory for certain DWI and refusal convictions. A DWI defendant recently argued to the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division that her refusal conviction should be thrown out because the standard statement in use at the time did not mention required IID use. The court ruled against the defendant in State v. Monaco but offered an overview of when a defective notification should result in relief for a defendant.

An IID is a device that attaches to a car’s ignition mechanism. In order to start the car, the driver must blow into the device, which measures their blood alcohol concentration (BAC). If the person’s BAC is above a certain amount, the IID prevents the car from starting. An IID must be professionally installed, and the defendant must bear the cost of the device in order to retain their driving privileges. Failing to install an IID as ordered, tampering with an IID, or otherwise circumventing or attempting to circumvent the device is a separate offense.

For a first DWI offense, an IID is required if the defendant’s BAC was 0.15 percent or higher, and it must be used for a period of six months to one year after the end of the license suspension. A conviction for refusal requires an IID installation for the same length of time. A second or subsequent DWI offense requires an IID installation for one to three years after the suspension period ends, regardless of BAC.

The defendant in Monaco was arrested after she reportedly jumped a curb into a residential front yard. At the police station, an officer read the standard statement to her and attempted to administer a breath test. After several unsuccessful attempts to obtain a sufficient breath sample, the officer stopped the test. The defendant was charged with DWI and refusal. She presented a variety of defenses but was convicted by the municipal court and the Superior Court, Law Division.

On appeal to the Appellate Division, the defendant raised several points of error, including the inadequacy of the standard statement that an officer read to her. Specifically, she argued that the statement was inadequate because it did not mention IID installation as a consequence of conviction. The court noted that IIDs have been mandatory in many New Jersey DWI cases since 2010, but the state did not update the standard statement to reflect this until July 2012. The defendant’s arrest took place three months earlier, in April 2012.

The court cited a 2013 decision from the New Jersey Supreme Court, State v. O’Driscoll, which established a “materiality test.” A court must determine whether a reasonable person would have made a different decision if they had the information missing from the defective statement. Here, the court found that, since the defendant refused to submit a breath sample despite knowing that it could result in a license suspension, there was no reason to believe that knowing about the IID requirement would have produced a different outcome.

Evan M. Levow, a New Jersey DWI lawyer, has dedicated 100% of his law practice to the defense of people facing DWI charges in the courts of this state. Contact us today online or at (877) 593-1717 to schedule a free and confidential consultation with an experienced and knowledgeable DWI defense advocate. We are available to help you 24/7.

More Blog Posts:

Ignition Interlock Devices Give DWI Defendants an Opportunity, but Also Create an Obligation, New Jersey DWI Attorney Blog, January 10, 2016

New Jersey Governor Blocks Bill that Would Lessen Some DWI Penalties, New Jersey DWI Attorney Blog, March 24, 2015

“Alcohol Restricted Driver” Laws in Some States Impose Substantial Restrictions on People with DWI Convictions, New Jersey DWI Attorney Blog, March 12, 2015

Photo credit: Spielvogel (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons.