Thursday, May 14, 2015
Ten year step down in DWI also applies to Refusal State v Taylor
Ten year step down in DWI also applies to Refusal
State v Taylor
In 2013, defendant Thomas Taylor entered a conditional guilty plea to refusal to submit to a breath test, N.J.S.A. 39:4-50.2, reserving the right "to appeal  any and all issues, including sentencing." Although defendant had no prior convictions for refusal, he had two prior convictions for driving while intoxicated (DWI), N.J.S.A. 39-4-50, in 1985 and 1996. The trial court sentenced defendant as a "third offender," using his DWI convictions to enhance the penalty for his refusal conviction.
On appeal, defendant argues that the "step-down" provision of the DWI statute, N.J.S.A. 39:4-50(a)(3), should apply so as to reduce his refusal conviction from a third to a second offense for sentencing purposes since it followed more than ten years after his second DWI conviction. We agree, and hold that where the penalty attendant to a driver's refusal conviction is enhanced by a prior conviction under the DWI statute, fairness dictates that it be similarly reduced by the sentencing leniency accorded a driver under the "step-down" provision of that statute when there is a hiatus of ten years or more between offenses.