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New Jersey DWI Prior Refusals

On January 19, 2011, the New Jersey Supreme Court handed defense attorneys a substantial victory as to how those who refuse to submit to a breath test should be sentenced. Initially under State v. DiSomma, a person who had been previously charged with a refusal and then was charged with a later DWI, would not be sentenced as a second offender, but as a first. Part of this rationale was that refusals were treated to a lesser burden of proof than the beyond a reasonable doubt standard needed for a DWI.

But in State v. Cummings, the court held that those charged with refusal were entitled to the same evidentiary standard as a DWI or any other quasi-criminal or criminal charge. Thus there became a great divide amongst the municipal court judiciary as to whether a DWI could be enhanced by a prior refusal.

This was all challenged in State v. Ciancaglini. In May, 2008, Ms. Ciancaglini was charged with a DWI in Rumson Township; her third DWI in New Jersey. Her prior included and 1979 DWI and a 2006 Refusal. Relying on State v. DiSomma, her counsel argued that she should be treated as a first offense DWI, as more than ten years had elapsed since her prior DWI. The Rumson Municipal Court Judge disagreed and sentenced Ms. Ciancaglini as a third time offender and subjected her to 180 days in the county jail and a ten year loss of license.

On appeal to the Law Division, the court held that Ms. Ciancaglini should have been sentenced under DiSomma as a first offender. The Monmouth County Prosecutor appealed and the Appellate Divisions reversed the Law Division holding that DiSomma was effectively overruled by changes in the case law (Cummings).

Ms. Ciancaglini then appealed to the New Jersey Supreme Court. The court held that the plain language of the refusal statute was completely different than the DWI statute. The court noted that since DiSomma had been decided, there had been no revisions to the Refusal Statute. Further the DWI statute contains no reference to the Refusal Statute, (and vice versa). As a result, Ms. Ciancaglini was sentenced as a first offender based on the fact that more than ten years had passed between her first DWI and this second one.

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Steven W. Hernandez, P.C., are experienced New Jersey DWI Lawyers. Our attorneys have specialized and particular training needed to properly defend DWI, DUI, and Refusal charges in New Jersey. As experienced New Jersey DWI lawyers, we have proven results in obtaining successful results for his clients charged with DWI, DUI, and Refusal.