Under New Jersey law, a person charged with DWI has the right to a fair and impartial trial. Thus, if it is clear that a trial judge is biased or otherwise engages in misconduct that is prejudicial to the defendant, it may constitute grounds for a new trial or re-sentencing. In some instances, though, even if a trial judge behaved inappropriately, it may not mean that a conviction or sentence should be vacated, as demonstrated in a recent New Jersey DWI opinion. If you live in New Jersey and are faced with charges that you drove while intoxicated, it is in your best interest to confer with a dedicated New Jersey DWI defense attorney to determine what defenses may be available in your case.
Facts of the Case
It is reported that the defendant was stopped by a police officer for swerving in and out of multiple lanes of traffic. When the officer spoke with the defendant, he noticed his car smelled of alcohol, and the defendant had slurred speech and bloodshot eyes. The defendant submitted to field sobriety tests, which he performed improperly. He was then charged with DWI, and a breath test revealed his BAC to be .13%. The defendant was convicted in the municipal court, after which he appealed.
Allegedly, on appeal, the law division judge confirmed the defendant’s convictions but found that the license suspension imposed was improper as the municipal judge considered the defendant’s lack of credibility in determining an appropriate length. Thus, the length of the defendant’s license suspension sentence was reduced, and the sentence was stayed. The defendant appealed again, arguing his conviction and sentence should be vacated due to the municipal judge’s misconduct.
DWI Sentences Under New Jersey Law
The defendant’s appeal ultimately had the opposite effect of his intention, in that the court ruled that stricter penalties should be imposed. First, the court noted that under New Jersey’s mandatory sentencing scheme for DWI offenders, a person with a BAC of .10% or higher must serve a period of detainment and must install an ignition interlock device in his or her primary vehicle. As both the municipal court and law division failed to impose these requirements, the court found that the sentence imposed on the defendant violated the law and was therefore illegal.
The court further explained that the State has a duty to note a sentence is illegal before the sentencing court, and if the State’s efforts are rejected by the trial court, it has the right to file a direct appeal. In cases in which the State does not raise a sentencing error though, the court may independently act to correct an illegal sentence. The court also noted that the trial court erred in staying the defendant’s license suspension. Thus, the court remanded the matter for re-sentencing.
Speak with a Proficient New Jersey DWI Defense Attorney
If you are accused of committing a third offense DWI in New Jersey, it is prudent to speak with an attorney as soon as possible to assess your rights. The proficient New Jersey DWI defense attorneys at The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall are familiar with what it takes to obtain a favorable result in criminal matters. If you hire us we will work diligently to help you seek a just outcome. We can be reached via our online form or by calling 877-450-8301 to schedule a conference.