Appellate Decision Upholds DWI & Refusal Convictions in NJ: Legal Analysis & Representation Offered

State of New Jersey v. Kevin Simmons

Docket No. A-3438-21

Decided July 26, 2023

Submitted by New Jersey DWI Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.

In a recent unpublished opinion, the Appellate Court of New Jersey decided defendant’s appeal from a June 3, 2022 Law Division order upholding his convictions for driving while intoxicated (DWI), N.J.S.A. 39:4-50; and refusal to submit to a chemical breath test (refusal), N.J.S.A. 39:4-50.4a.

In March 2020, officers were dispatched to milepost 152 along the northbound lanes of the Garden State Parkway in response to a reported medical emergency. An officer observed a vehicle past the shoulder and on the grass. The driver’s side door was ajar and the driver/defendant appeared to be “sleeping and snoring” behind the wheel. As the officer approached, he detected the odor of alcohol emanating from inside of the vehicle. The officer was unable to recall whether the car was running or if the keys were in the ignition.

The officer woke the defendant up and asked for his driving credentials. Defendant was purportedly awake and alert at this point, but his slurred speech made him incoherent. He claimed to not be involved in an accident and pulled over to the side of the road because he ‘was awaiting a ride.’ After being asked to exit the vehicle and perform field sobriety testing, defendant complied but failed the tests the officer administered. Defendant was arrested for suspicion of DWI, advised of his Miranda rights, and taken to the police station.

At the station, defendant was again advised of his Miranda rights, but refused to answer the questions or sign the form. The officer then asked defendant additional questions pursuant to the standard operator questionnaire. Defendant stated he had diabetes, but denied that he was sick, under a doctor’s care, or taking medicine, including insulin. Defendant acknowledged that he had consumed “six to eight beers.” Defendant refused to answer any other questions but agreed to give a breath sample. When the trooper attempted to obtain a breath sample, defendant failed to breathe out sufficiently for the equipment to obtain a reading. The officer believed defendant was not trying to provide a proper sample, and subsequently charged with DUI and refusal to submit breath sample.

In January 2022, the municipal court judge found defendant guilty of DUI and refusal, articulating that based upon the totality of circumstances at the scene, which included defendant’s “demeanor and physical condition,” and the officer’s observations, “there was sufficient probable cause to arrest defendant,” whose physical condition “was subsequently corroborated by his performance on the field sobriety tests at the police station. Defendant appealed to the Law Division.

On appeal, defendant maintained that the State failed to prove the DWI and refusal charges by contending that there was insufficient proof that he had operated the car while intoxicated because he: was not observed driving his car; was asleep for an indeterminate time when the officer arrived at the scene; and had called his friend to pick him up. Oral argument was conducted in May 2022. The Law Division affirmed the municipal court’s ruling in a written opinion. The judge conducted a thorough review of the evidence presented to the municipal court and made independent factual findings and legal conclusions in view of the controlling law. Defendant appealed to the Appellate Court.

On appeal to the Appellate Court, defendant argued again that the State did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt the DWI and refusal charges and that the Law Division improperly found the State’s only witness credible despite inconsistent and contradictory testimony. Ultimately the Appellate Court affirmed the lower courts’ rulings, concluding that defendant’s contentions lack sufficient merit to warrant further discussion in a written opinion. The lower courts’ decision was affirmed for substantially the same reasons as in the Law Division’s written opinion. The Appellate Court deemed trial court’s factual and credibility findings supported by sufficient credible evidence and noted that municipal court’s credibility findings were not at issue in defendant’s appeal

At Hark & Hark, we are experienced attorneys who represent clients in Superior Court for issues like the previously discussed case pertaining motions to appeal DUI convictions. We work hard to ensure that our clients receive exceptional representation in order for them to receive the most favorable outcome in their case as a result.

We offer payment plan options to clients financially incapable of providing full payment upfront. If you are facing a similar situation to that of the defendant in this case, please call us to discuss the matter. At Hark & Hark, we represent clients for any case in any county in New Jersey including Atlantic County, Bergen County, Burlington County, Camden County, Cape May County, Cumberland County, Essex County, Gloucester County, Hudson County, Hunterdon County, Mercer County, Middlesex County, Monmouth County, Morris County, Ocean County, Passaic County, Salem County, Somerset County, Sussex County, Union County, and Warren County and any town including Audubon, Gloucester City, Oaklyn, Audubon Park, Gloucester Township, Pennsauken, Barrington, Haddon Heights, Pine Hill, Bellmawr, Haddon Township, Pine Valley, Berlin Borough, Haddonfield, Runnemede, Berlin Township, Hi-Nella, Somerdale, Brooklawn, Laurel Springs, Stratford, Camden, Lawnside, Voorhees, Cherry Hill, Lindenwold, Waterford, Chesilhurst, Magnolia, Winslow, Clementon, Merchantville, Woodlynne, Collingswood, Mt. Ephraim, and Gibbsboro.

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Criminal Civil Lawyer

Jeffrey Hark is a New Jersey Civil and Criminal Lawyer.

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