New Jersey Court Discusses a Criminal Defendant’s Right to Testify in a DWI Matter

People charged with DWI offenses have the right to choose whether to testify in their own defense. While in some instances, such testimony may exonerate a defendant, in others, it may impair a defendant’s credibility and defenses, and it is prudent for the defendant to remain silent. In a recent opinion, a New Jersey court discussed whether a defendant charged with numerous DWI crimes was denied the right to a fair trial due to his attorney’s suggestion that he refrain from testifying. If you live in New Jersey and are faced with accusations that you committed a DWI crime, it is in your best interest to speak with an experienced New Jersey DWI defense attorney regarding your rights.

The Alleged Crime

It is alleged that the defendant was drinking in a bar with friends when he began bragging about how fast his car could go. He and a friend left the bar to go to a nearby convenience store. They intended to return to the bar, but the defendant accelerated and lost control, and the car crashed. The friend died due to his injuries. A toxicology report subsequently revealed the defendant’s BAC to be almost twice the legal limit at the time of the accident.

Reportedly, the defendant was charged with multiple crimes, including assault by auto by driving while intoxicated. The defendant was convicted as charged, after which he filed a motion for post-conviction relief, arguing in part that he was denied the right to a fair trial due to the fact he was mis-advised by his attorney not to testify on his own behalf. The court denied his motion, and the defendant appealed.

A Criminal Defendant’s Right to Testify

In his appeal, the defendant argued that he wanted to testify at trial, but his attorney advised him not to because he had amnesia regarding many of the facts surrounding the accident. Thus, the defendant argued that his trial counsel was ineffective. The court explained that criminal defendants have a right under the Constitution to testify on their own behalf. The defendant ultimately determines whether or not to testify, but it is the defendant’s attorney’s obligation to inform the defendant of the right to testify instead of simply relying on trial strategy.

In other words, the defendant’s attorney, not the court, must advise a defendant whether or not to testify and to explain the disadvantages and benefits of doing so. In the subject case, however, the court expressly discussed the defendant’s right to testify with the defendant, and the defendant stated that he chose not to testify and that he made that choice due to his amnesia. Thus, the court found that the defendant’s right to testify was not violated, and the trial court ruling was affirmed.

Meet with a Seasoned New Jersey DWI Defense Attorney

Depending on the circumstances out of which a defendant’s charges arose, a first DWI offense in New Jersey can result in significant penalties, including jail time. If you are accused of a DWI crime, you should meet with an attorney to assess your available defenses. The seasoned New Jersey DWI defense attorneys of The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall are adept at defending people charged with serious DWI crimes. If you hire us, we will craft compelling arguments in your favor, to help you pursue the best outcome available under the facts of your case. We can be contacted at 877-450-8301 or via our online form to set up a conference.

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