A man from New Jersey recently lost an appeal over his 2011 drunk driving conviction. The man’s defense revolved around a commonly used technicality in New Jersey, an argument that was ultimately rejected by the court. The decision invalidated the popular defense tactic, which means New Jersey drunk driving cases will have one less basis for fighting charges going forward.
The case was brought by Pedro Peralta, a man who was arrested and convicted for drunk driving back in 2011. Peralta argued that his conviction ought to be thrown out because he submitted to a Breathalyzer test despite never having been read a statutory warning that explained the penalties faced by those who refuse to submit to such a test.
Peralta’s argument is based on the ruling in an older appellate case which threw out a DUI conviction after the justices decided that the officer’s failure to read the warning made the test results inadmissible. In this case, the judges overturned that decision, saying that warning drivers about the penalties faced by refusing to provide a breath sample should not be required before gathering a sample from suspected drunk drivers.
The Court said that while reading the statutory statement is critical in cases where the driver refused to give a sample, it is meaningless in those cases where a driver already provided his or her consent. In these cases, the justices believe that drivers have already made the decision to go forward with the test and that hearing about the punishment they could be subjected to is pointless given their demonstrated willingness to submit to the test. Defense attorneys previously argued that the failure to read the statutory statement invalidated the entire DUI arrest process.
Just like in New Jersey, Minnesota has a similar statutory statement that must be read to motorists during a traffic stop. The statement is referred to as the Minnesota Implied Consent Advisory (MNICA) and must be read by a police officer prior to dispensing a chemical test to determine if a driver is under the influence.
According to Minnesota Statutes Section 169A.51, the MNICA contains important information about the rights of the driver under Minnesota law. The MNICA explains that the implied consent law requires drivers to take a test to determine their level of impairment and that any refusal to take such a test is a crime. The statement also must inform the motorist that they have the right to consult with an attorney, provided the consultation does not result in an unreasonable delay in administering the chemical test.
In Minnesota, there is no specific requirement that the arresting officer must read the MNICA at any particular time or place. Instead, the rule is that motorists must be informed of their rights at some point before taking the test. There are circumstances where the statement need not be read, including those where an accident resulted in injuries or death or where the impaired driver is unconscious.