Archive for October 2010

New Jersey Supreme Court Affirms That a Prior Conviction…

NEW JERSEY SUPREME COURT AFFIRMS THAT A PRIOR CONVICTION FOR REFUSAL TO SUBMIT TO BREATH TEST CANNOT BE BASIS TO ENHANCE SENTENCE FOR SUBSEQUENT DRIVING WHILE INTOXICATED CONVICTION.

New Jersey lawyers practicing before the Municipal Courts in the State of New Jersey should be well-versed regarding the case of State v. DiSomma which holds that a refusal conviction is not a prior violation under the DWI statute. The decision in DiSomma was rendered in 1993 and, since that time, the legislature of the State of New Jersey has made numerous revisions to both the DWI and the refusal statutes without clarifying on modifying either statute in response to the DiSomma decision. Based upon the NJ Supreme Court’s statutory interpretation, the court recently concluded that in fact DiSomma represents the correct statutory interpretation and that other cases to the contrary are overruled.

In this case, the Court considered the statutory language and other available information in light of the guiding principle that any reasonable doubt concerning the meaning of a penal (criminal ) statute be strictly construed in favor the defendant. In considering both the DWI and refusal statutes, the Court recognized that the statutes contained different proof requirements and were intended by the legislature to be separate violations. The Court could find no cross reference between the statutes and, as such, was unwilling to interpret the statute in a manner that would violate the requirement of strict construction for penal statutes.

Legal Quote of the Week:

To assume is to fool one’s self.

Jewish folk saying
Joseph L. Baron, A Treasury of Jewish Quotations, 1956