When a person is charged with a DWI crime, it does not necessarily mean that he or she will be convicted. To the contrary, in some cases, the State’s evidence will be insufficient, or the State will be precluded from introducing evidence against the defendant, due to the manner in which it was obtained. In some cases, even if the State can prove that a defendant drove while intoxicated, the defendant may be able to avoid a conviction by arguing the affirmative defense of necessity. In a recent DWI case, the appellate division of the Superior Court of New Jersey discussed what a defendant alleging necessity must prove to avoid a guilty verdict. If you are charged with a DWI crime, it is wise to speak to an experienced attorney regarding your available defenses.
Facts and Proceedings of the Underlying Case
Allegedly, police officers found the defendant asleep in the driver’s seat of her car in the parking lot of a grocery store. Her lights were on, and the keys were in the ignition. When the officers questioned the defendant, they noticed a strong odor of alcohol, and she admitted to drinking seven shots of liquor. She was arrested for DWI, and a breath sample revealed her BAC to be .19%. She was charged with DWI and reckless driving. She pleaded guilty to the DWI charge and was sentenced.
The defendant subsequently filed a motion to vacate her guilty plea, arguing the defense of necessity. The court denied her motion, and the defendant appealed to the Law Division. Her appeal to the Law Division was also denied, after which she appealed to the Superior Court. On review, the Superior Court affirmed the lower courts’ decisions, finding, in part, that the defendant failed to prove that the elements of necessity required a reversal.