Earlier this month, the NJ Appellate Division held that a prior conviction for Refusing to Submit to the taking of breath samples qualifies as a prior conviction for subsequent NJ DWI sentencing. This creates new challenges for NJ DWI-DUI defense attorneys and drunk driving defendants.
In State v Ciancaglini, the State appealed from the Law Division trial court’s decision that the defendant should have been sentenced as a first offender for her DWI conviction. Defendant was previously convicted of Driving while Intoxicated in 1979. In 2006, she was convicted of refusing to take the breathalyzer test. The Law Division discounted those convictions and gave the defendant the 10-year step down and also did not count the prior Refusal charge as a prior conviction. On appeal, the court agreed with the State that defendant’s prior convictions required that she be sentenced as a third-time DWI offender, subjecting her to 10 years license suspension, 6 months jail and a $1000 fine.