State of New Jersey v. William Mongillo, Jr.: Appeal from an Order Finding Defendant Guilty Of DUI, Refusal to Submit to a Breath Test, Reckless Driving, and Failure to Maintain Lane
Docket No. A-3002-20
Decided December 30, 2022
Submitted by New Jersey DWI Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.
In a recent unpublished opinion, the Appellate Court of New Jersey decided defendant’s appeal from an order finding him guilty of DUI, refusal to submit to a breath test, reckless driving, and failure to maintain lane.
The State’s case in municipal court in February 2020 consisted entirely of the testimony from the arresting officer. The officer testified about his observations of defendant and his attempt at having defendant perform field sobriety tests. Defense counsel did not object to the introduction and admission of the New Jersey Standard Statement for Motor Vehicle Operators (SSMVO) and Drinking Driving Questionnaire (DDQ) into evidence. The officer testified that he observed the defendant swerving and crossing over the yellow line twice. He further testified that after he initiated the motor vehicle stop and advised defendant he was swerving, defendant claimed to be looking at his GPS because he needed directions to get home (although he was only twenty-five yards away). Defendant refused to make eye contact with the officer when asked for his driving credentials, and the officer stated his movements were slow and deliberate. Defendant also dropped some paperwork taken out of his glovebox. The officer testified that he detected alcohol on defendant’s breath as defendant spoke. When asked if he had been drinking, defendant admitted to consuming five beers over the course of three hours. Defendant failed the horizontal gaze nystagmus test and walk-and-turn test, and was subsequently placed under arrest and read his Miranda rights. At the station, the arresting officer also had much difficulty gaining the defendant’s cooperation in obtaining a breath sample.
In June 2020, the municipal court judge found the defendant guilty of all charges based on the officer’s observations of defendant, the defendant’s statements and the failed field sobriety tests. The municipal court also relied on the officer’s testimony regarding his efforts to have defendant submit to breath testing to find that defendant failed to provide unequivocal assent to the test, which constituted a refusal. Defendant appealed.
On appeal to the Law Division, defendant argued that the municipal prosecutor’s reference to the failure of a female co-worker to testify on defendant’s behalf during final summation constituted plain error under New Jersey law. Defendant also contested the municipal judge’s admission of HGN and DDQ evidence. The Law Division disagreed and ruled that the State met its burden as to each charge. The judge accepted the officer’s testimony after considering the thirty-five pages of the officer’s direct testimony and his brief cross-examination. The judge noted the officer’s first-hand observations of defendant’s intoxication was substantial evidence to establish the State’s burden of proof. The judge also determined his findings were made without considering the HGN results or any information elicited from the DDQ. Defendant appealed.
Now on appeal to the Appellate Court, defendant contends that the trial court erred by failing to properly review and consider exhibits received in evidence at the municipal trial. The Appellate Court determined that the Law Division judge conducted a thorough review of the municipal court record in the trial de novo. The court noted that the arresting officer’s testimony provided sufficient credible evidence establishing defendant was under the influence of alcohol, engaged in reckless driving and failed to maintain a lane. Thus, the court concluded that there was ample credible evidence to support the judge’s finding that defendant was guilty of all charged offenses
At Hark & Hark, we are experienced attorneys who represent clients in Municipal Court for issues like the previously discussed case pertaining to driving under the influence. 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.
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