New Jersey Court Discusses Jurisdiction Over DWI Cases

In New Jersey, DWI cases typically proceed in municipal court. In some instances, though, a DWI matter will fall under the jurisdiction of the Superior Court, like in cases in which the defendant causes an accident that results in serious injuries. Recently, a New Jersey court set forth an opinion addressing the discrete issue of whether a DWI case in which the defendant is injured in an accident he caused should proceed in front of the Superior Court, in a case in which the defendant pleaded guilty to a third offense DWI. If you are accused of a DWI crime, it is advisable to speak to a seasoned New Jersey DWI defense attorney to assess your rights.

Procedural History of the Case

It is reported that in 2007, the defendant entered a guilty plea to the charge of DWI as a subsequent offender, which arose out of a one-car accident. The defendant, who sustained injuries in the accident, was driving alone. The court sentenced him to a 10-year license suspension to run consecutively to a 10-year suspension that began in 2006. In 2018, the defendant moved to vacate his guilty plea. The municipal court granted the motion but determined that in accordance with a New Jersey statute, the Superior Court had the sole right to exercise jurisdiction over the matter. The State appealed, and the court reinstated the defendant’s guilty plea. The defendant then appealed, arguing the lower courts misapplied the applicable law.

Jurisdiction Over DWI Cases

On appeal, the appellate court explained that the plain language of the relevant law clearly stated that DWI-related accidents involving serious injuries fall within the jurisdiction of the Superior Court, not the municipal court. The appellate court noted, though, that the statute did not provide any guidance as to whether it applied to the defendant’s DWI charge, as he was the only person injured in the crash and was not charged with any offense that would invoke the jurisdiction of the Superior Court.

The appellate court reviewed both the legislative history and case law interpreting the statute to determine its true intent. Ultimately, the appellate court determined that the statute in question only applies when a DWI defendant is charged with both motor vehicle and criminal offenses. As in the subject case, the defendant was merely charged with a motor vehicle offense, and no indictable act occurred, there was no need to remove the case to the jurisdiction of the Superior Court. Finally, the appellate court went on to state that to rule otherwise would lead to absurd results.

Meet with a Trusted New Jersey DWI Defense Attorney

People accused of DWI crimes, like all criminal defendants, have a right to a fair trial, which includes the right to have their cases heard by the appropriate court. If you are accused of committing a third offense DUI in NJ, the trusted New Jersey DWI defense attorneys of The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall can assist you in seeking the best outcome possible under the facts of your case. You can reach us via our online form or at  877-450-8301 to schedule a meeting.

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