The appellate division recent reversed a long standing precedent that a prior refusal offense/conviction could not be used to enhance penalties in connection with a subsequent DWI offense. Before this decision, a defendant with a prior conviction for refusal only would be treated as a first offender, for example, if they were charged with a DWI (first) after the refusal offense. The same scenario will now expose the defendant to treatment as a second offender, greatly increasing the possible penalties that the accused will face.
Another hypothetical would include the following: Defendant is convicted of DWI in 2002 (first offense). In 2006, he is convicted of refusal only. As a result of that conviction, the defendant would be subject to a 2 year loss of license, and treated as a second offense for sentencing. In 2008, the defendant is again charged with DWI. Under the old law, the defendant would be subject to second offense penalties only, because the refusal took place before the DWI. However, the accused will now be looking at a third offense and mandatory 6 months in jail upon conviction. These are substantial changes and dramatically change the DWI defense landscape.
This is a confusing time-line driven calculation and the order of offenses, as well as the timing, still makes a huge difference. To insure that you fully understand the nature of the penalties that you face, you should contact a NJ DWI lawyer who understands the current status of the law.