Interviewer: What are some common mistakes I must be aware of and avoid that can make my situation worse?
Ron Mondello: To begin with, we have to talk about common mistakes before and after you receive your New Jersey DWI or DUI. The most common mistake that I find among people who receive New Jersey DWIs and DUIs is their failure to take the breathalyzer test. In New Jersey, if a police officer has probable cause to take you down to the station to administer the breathalyzer test, you have no legal right to refuse. Let me say that again, you have no legal right to refuse. Assuming the police officer was correct and he has probable cause to take you down to the police station to administer the breathalyzer test and you refuse, you have now made my job or any other attorney who represents you on your New Jersey DWI much, much more difficult.
It is Not Advisable to Refuse a Breathalyzer Test in New Jersey
Once you are issued a summons for refusal to take the breathalyzer and a DWI ticket, it’s like you just received two tickets for two DWIs. In many instances, my clients tell me that they were not intoxicated and they only had one or two drinks typically two beers. If that’s the case, why wouldn’t you take the breathalyzer. If you really only ingested one or two drinks the breathalyzer results may exonerate you. Meaning, your blood alcohol level will certainly be well below the legal limit of .08% BAC if you’ve only had one or two drinks. So, be sure to take the breathalyzer regardless of whether you believe you are intoxicated or not.
There is No Legal Obligation to Perform Field Sobriety Tests in New Jersey
The next common mistake is submitting to the police officers requests to perform field sobriety tests. Although there is a legal requirement that you take the breathalyzer, there is no legal requirement that you comply with an officer’s instructions to perform field sobriety tests. I understand that refusing to walk 10 spaces in a straight line, pivot and return walking 10 spaces heel to toe might be a scary prospect for you. But refusing to comply with the police officers requests to perform field sobriety tests is not illegal. The police officer will most likely be very angry with you. But the field sobriety tests are used to convict you at trial. The field sobriety tests are not a tool to assist you but to assist the police officer in proving that you are intoxicated based on observations. Interesting enough, although the field sobriety tests are widely excepted by all of the Municipal Court’s in New Jersey, the average person has difficulty performing them without any alcohol in their system. Therefore, if you have the intestinal fortitude (most do not) to tell the police officer “with all due respect officer I’m not going to take that test but I will take the breathalyzer whenever you deem it appropriate”, kudos to you.
Finding The Right Attorney To Represent You is of the Utmost Importance
Let’s talk about one of the most common mistakes after a defendant receives a DWI or DUI in New Jersey. As previously explained, the penalties associated with a New Jersey DWI or DUI are draconian in nature. I have already given you my opinion that it’s not akin to a two-point speeding ticket and you must hire an attorney to represent you. In doing so, one of the common mistakes I find is that defendants are simply shopping around for the lowest cost attorney. My advice to you is to do your homework and simply find competent counsel. What does competent counsel mean? Competent counsel to represent you in the defense of a New Jersey DWI or DUI should obviously have a great deal of experience with those types of cases. Recall that the penalties for a DWI in New Jersey amount to thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars. Why would you or anyone for that matter, risk that type of exposure for the least expensive attorney with the least experience? Take my advice and interview several Municipal Court attorneys, ask all the questions you can gather and be sure that you are comfortable with him or her.