Back in July, in State v. Marquez, a case involving a conviction for refusing to submit to a chemical breath test, the New Jersey Supreme Court held that New Jersey’s implied consent law, N.J.S.A. 39:4-50.2, and refusal law, N.J.S.A. 39:4-50.4a, require proof that an officer requested the motorist to submit to a chemical breath test and informed the person of the consequences of refusing to do so. The New Jersey Supreme Court also held that the statement used to explain to motorists the consequences of refusal must be given in a language the person speaks or understands. For non-English speakers, the Court deferred to the MVC to fashion a proper remedy. The Attorney General has already arranged for certified translated versions of the standard statement to be prepared in both written and audio form in the nine foreign languages in which the MVC offers the written driver’s test. Because defendant German Marquez was advised of these consequences in English, and there is no dispute that he did not understand English, his refusal conviction was reversed.
The legislators are free to change the law if they are dissatisfied with the judicial decision; and if the legislature does not react to the new law, it is presumed that the law has been accepted. However, Assemblymen Nelson Albano, D-Cape May, and Paul Moriarty, D-Gloucester, proposed recently that any driver involved in a serious motor vehicle accident must either submit to a breath test or give a blood sample to determine if alcohol or drugs played a role in the accident. The two South Jersey Assembly members also indicated that they did not agree with the Marquez holding (that refusal paragraph must be in a language that a defendant understands) and are planning to introduce a contrary language amendment to the Statute.
Currently, drivers can only be tested for drugs or alcohol when there is evidence or a clear-cut suspicion that a driver is under the influence. If the proposed legislature comes through, all drivers involved in accidents that result in death or serious injury would have to submit to sobriety testing. Those who refuse would be subject to the same penalties as someone convicted of refusal in relation to a drunken driving charge. First offenders could face fines of up to $1,000 and have their driver’s license suspended for as long as two years.
The Law and Public Safety Committee approved the bill in June, sending it to the full Assembly. But a vote has not yet been scheduled.