There are many different defenses available in criminal cases, however, would you imagine claiming that you should not be convicted of an offense because you were confused? This defense – known as the confusion doctrine – was recently presented in a New Jersey appeal filed by a man who was convicted of refusing to submit to a breathalyzer test at a traffic stop.
New Jersey law requires that anyone who has a driver’s license consents to a breathalyzer test if a police officer requests one to determine whether the driver is under the influence of alcohol. If you refuse to submit to a test, you will face additional charges for refusal to submit. One man appealed his refusal conviction by claiming he was confused about his rights at the traffic stop and the implications of his refusal.
When a police officer detains you and wants to ask you questions, the officer must first read you your Miranda rights, which include the right to remain silent. However, in the case of a DUI, you cannot invoke your right to remain silent in order to avoid submitting to a breath test. In fact, officers in NJ are required to read a Standard Statement to all DWI suspects that tells them their Miranda rights do not apply to breath tests. However, the Standard Statement is long and can be confusing, especially for someone who has little knowledge of the criminal justice system.
In previous court decisions, the New Jersey Supreme Court has ruled that, under certain circumstances, a DWI suspect may become confused if they hear both their Miranda rights and the Standard Statement for DWI one right after the other. In such a situation, the suspect may not realize the actual penalties for refusal due to their confusion and may present the defense.
In the recent case of State v. Byrne, however, an Appellate Court in NJ decided that the confusion doctrine can only be successfully applied in extremely limited circumstances. In this case, the court held that the defendant did not adequately prove his confusion and upheld the conviction for his refusal to give a breath sample.
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Like many legal concepts, the confusion doctrine can be complex and, well, confusing. At David C. Barry, Attorney at Law, we will explore every possible option for your defense against DWI charges and other offenses. Please call our New Jersey defense lawyer to discuss your case today.