Court Discusses State’s Burden of Proof in New Jersey DWI Cases

In most New Jersey DWI cases, the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed each element of a crime. In cases in which the defendant pleads guilty, however, the State’s burden differs. Thus, it is critical for someone considering entering a guilty plea to fully understand the ramifications of the plea and how the plea may affect his or her defenses thereafter. This was demonstrated in a recent New Jersey DWI case in which the defendant was convicted after he pled guilty and then argued that the State did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he committed the crime. If you are charged with a DWI offense in New Jersey, it is advisable to engage a trusted New Jersey DWI defense attorney who will work hard to protect your rights.

Facts and Procedural History of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was charged with his second DWI offense. He filed a motion to dismiss the charge, arguing that the State could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was guilty. A municipal court hearing was held on the motion, during which the officer that arrested the defendant testified that he observed the defendant asleep in the driver’s seat of his car, with the engine running and the lights on, at a gas station in the middle of the night. Further, he testified that the windshield was smashed and the front bumper was damaged. When the officer woke the defendant, he had bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, and smelled of alcohol. He subsequently submitted to field sobriety tests, which he failed.

Allegedly, the defendant testified that on the night of his arrest, he hit a deer and then drove to a gas station and called his mother. He stated that while he was waiting for his mother, he drank four beers from a six-pack he had in his car. The municipal court judge did not find the defendant’s story to be credible and denied his motion to dismiss. The defendant appealed, and the Law Division affirmed, finding sufficient circumstantial evidence that the defendant operated his vehicle, after which the defendant entered a conditional guilty plea. He was sentenced, then appealed the denial of his motion to dismiss.

The State’s Burden of Proof Following a Guilty Plea

On appeal, the defendant argued that the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he operated his vehicle while intoxicated. The court stated, however, that because the defendant entered a conditional guilty plea, the State was not required to prove the defendant’s operation of a vehicle beyond a reasonable doubt. Rather, the State’s burden was limited to proving the arresting officer had probable cause to arrest the defendant for the operation of his vehicle while intoxicated. The court found that the evidence of record was sufficient to show that the defendant was in actual control of his vehicle prior to his arrest. As such, the court affirmed the lower court rulings, dismissing the defendant’s motion to dismiss.

Confer with a Trusted New Jersey DWI Defense Attorney

If you are accused of a DWI crime in New Jersey, it is wise to confer with a trusted New Jersey DWI defense attorney to develop a strategy to aid you in seeking a favorable result. The knowledgeable attorneys of the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall will work diligently to help you strive to protect your rights. We can be contacted at 877-450-8301 or via our form online to schedule a meeting.