Court Discusses Standard for Granting Post-Conviction Relief in New Jersey DWI Cases

Simply because a person is convicted of DWI does not mean that the person has no options for seeking relief from the conviction. Rather, under New Jersey law, if a criminal defendant produces sufficient evidence that his or her conviction should be vacated, the person may be eligible for post-conviction relief. In a recent New Jersey DWI case, the court explained the standard for granting post-conviction relief in DWI cases and when a request for such relief must be filed. If you are charged with a DWI and have prior DWI convictions, it is important to speak with a seasoned New Jersey DWI defense attorney regarding your options.

Factual and Procedural Background of the Case

Allegedly, in 2018, when the defendant was charged with DWI, she sought post-conviction relief for a 1980 DWI conviction. In her petition for relief, the defendant verified that she was not represented by counsel when she pled guilty for the prior offense and that she had not been informed of her right to counsel. She also requested relief from an enhanced custodial term. The trial court denied the defendant’s petition, after which she appealed. During the pendency of the appeal, the Supreme Court of New Jersey clarified the grounds for granting post-conviction relief from an enhanced custodial sentence for a subsequent DWI conviction.

Standard for Granting Post Conviction Relief in a DWI Case

On appeal, the court noted that the trial court denied the defendant’s petition, in part, because it was filed beyond the five-year time limitation set forth under the current law. The trial court also held that the plaintiff had not established a prima facie case that she was entitled to relief.

The court explained that subsequent case law changed the applicable rule, however, by eliminating the time constraints. Thus, a defendant seeking post-conviction relief could file the petition at any time. Further, the court found that the Supreme Court of New Jersey’s goals in eliminating the time limitation would be furthered by applying those changes retroactively. While the court found that full retroactivity was not appropriate, it was suitable in the subject case because the defendant’s appeal was pending at the time the rule was changed. Thus, the court found that the trial court’s first basis for denying the defendant’s petition failed.

Further, the court explained that recent case law also clarified that a defendant seeking relief from an enhanced custodial sentence due to a prior DWI conviction due to lack of counsel in the prior proceeding must show that he or she was not informed of the right to an attorney, and if he or she knew of the right to an attorney he or she would have retained a lawyer. As the defendant set forth these facts in her petition, the appellate court found that the trial court improperly denied the defendant’s petition. Thus, the court reversed the lower court ruling and remanded the matter for further proceedings.

Meet with an Experienced New Jersey DWI Defense Attorney

If you are charged with a DWI offense in New Jersey, it is in your best interest to meet with an experienced New Jersey DWI defense attorney to develop a plan to help you strive for a favorable outcome under the circumstances. The knowledgeable attorneys of the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall will work diligently to help you seek to protect your liberties. You can reach us at 877-450-8301 or through the form online to schedule a meeting.