Court Discusses Grounds for Recusal in New Jersey DWI Cases

One of the tenets of criminal law is that a defendant has the right to a fair and impartial trial. Thus, if a DWI defendant believes that a judge is unduly prejudiced or biased against the defendant, he or she can file a motion for recusal. Recusal is only granted in limited circumstances, however, as demonstrated in a recent case in which a New Jersey appellate court affirmed the defendant’s DWI conviction following the denial of a motion for recusal. If you are faced with DWI charges, it is advisable to meet with a proficient DWI defense attorney to discuss the rights you are afforded under the law.

Procedural Background of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was charged with DWI in December 2017. The matter was listed for a hearing in May 2018; however, the defendant’s attorney failed to appear due to a medical issue. The day prior to the hearing, an associate from the defendant’s attorney’s office informed the court that none of the attorneys from the firm were available to represent the defendant at the hearing, and no one would appear on behalf of the defendant.

Allegedly, during the hearing, the judge expressed concern regarding the scheduling issue and the late notice provided by the defendant’s attorney regarding his inability to appear. The matter was relisted. At the subsequent hearing, the defendant’s case was not addressed by the court until several hours after it was scheduled to be heard. The defendant’s attorney expressed concerns that the delay was punishment for his failure to appear at the earlier hearing. He further stated he believed the judge had a conflict of interest and filed a motion for recusal. The motion for recusal was ultimately denied, and the defendant entered a conditional guilty plea. The defendant’s sentence was stayed pending appeal.

Grounds for a Judge’s Recusal in New Jersey

Pursuant to the New Jersey Rules of Court, any party may move to seek a judge’s disqualification in a case. The party seeking recusal does not have to prove actual prejudice to obtain a recusal. Rather, an appearance of bias is sufficient, as long as the belief that the judge cannot rule in a fair manner is objectively reasonable. In the subject case, the municipal judge denied the defendant’s motion, stating that his comments merely expressed frustration with the scheduling issues and that he held no personal animus towards the defendant or his counsel.

Upon review, the appellate court found that sufficient evidence of record existed in support of the judge’s factual conclusions and that there was nothing on the record that indicated bias or prejudice. Thus, the court found that the defendant failed to show that a reasonable person who was fully informed of the situation would find the judge impartial and affirmed the denial of the defendant’s motion.

Meet with a Trusted DWI Defense Attorney

If you reside in New Jersey and are charged with a DWI, whether it is a first offense or a subsequent offense, it is in your best interest to meet with a trusted New Jersey DWI attorney regarding what defenses you may be able to assert in pursuit of a favorable result. The dedicated attorneys of the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall will advocate aggressively on your behalf to help you strive to protect your interests. We can be reached via our form online or at 877-450-8301 to schedule a meeting.