Posted on Aug 02, 2012

On Tuesday, July 31, the former mayor of Washington Twp., NJ, Assemblyman Paul Moriarty, was arrested for drunk driving, as reported by the Gloucester County Times. According to the police, Moriarty was pulled over for failure to maintain lane. After he disputed the basis for the stop, the officer asked him if he had been drinking and conducted a field sobriety test.

He was then brought back to the station, where he accused the police of abusing their power and refused to submit to a breath test. He denied having anything to drink, and thought that the breath test process was "compromised."  Moriarty refused to give a sample before talking to his lawyer, John Eastlack. “I felt like there was something fishy about the whole process,” he is quoted as saying.

Why Refusing the Breathalyzer Was a Bad Idea

However, drivers in New Jersey do not have the right to refuse a Breathalyzer, as there is no 6th Amendment right to counsel beforehand, and the giving of said sample is not considered "testimony" under the 5th Amendment. What is worse, the penalties for refusal are the same as drunk driving in New Jersey, so refusing to give a sample only hurt Moriarty's chances of proving he was sober and being harassed by the police.

The Washington Township Police Union is standing by the actions of the officer, stating that the stop was conducted properly (the field sobriety test conducted at the scene was recorded on the patrol car's video camera). The problem that Moriarty now faces is that the police now only have to prove that the officer had probable cause to arrest Moriarty for DUI. That probable cause is what triggers the right to demand a breath sample.

What He Should Have Done

Therefore, if the police can meet this burden, Moriarty will face the same fate as a drunk driver. Had he simply cooperated and provided the samples, and the reading did not show intoxication, then he might have been able to contest the charges and press his assertion of "abuse of power." A court date has been set for August 8.

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Steven J. Richardson
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Bankruptcy, Collections, Student Loan, DUI and Traffic Court attorney in Woodbury, NJ.