New Jersey Court Discusses Legality of DWI Sentences

People charged with second-offense DWI crimes in New Jersey often face the risk of substantial penalties if they are convicted. As such, in some instances, they will plead guilty in hopes of being granted a reduced sentence. It is within the court’s discretion to determine an appropriate sentence, however, and defendants who plead guilty may not always find the terms of their penalties agreeable. As long as a sentence is legal, it will likely be upheld, though, as shown in a recent opinion issued by a New Jersey court. If you are faced with charges of a second offense DWI, it is in your best interest to consult a skillful New Jersey DWI defense lawyer to weigh your options.

The Defendant’s Conviction and Sentencing

Reportedly, the defendant was charged with driving under the influence and driving during a period of license suspension for a DWI. He pleaded guilty to the charges. In accordance with the defendant’s plea agreement, the court sentenced the defendant to a total of 360 days imprisonment, with a mandatory period of parole ineligibility that also lasted 360 days imposed as a term of probation.

Allegedly, the sentence encompassed a 180-day term of imprisonment for the DWI conviction and a 180 term of imprisonment for the conviction for driving with a suspended license. The defendant filed an appeal, arguing that his sentences were illegal, as the criminal code did not permit the courts to authorize compulsory periods of parole ineligibility as a probationary condition. The appellate court disagreed and affirmed his sentence.

Assessing Whether a Sentence is Illegal

The New Jersey Supreme Court has stated that there are two types of illegal sentences: those that are not permitted under the law and those that exceed the permissible penalties for a specific offense. In the subject case, the defendant argued that his sentence fell under the umbrella of those that are not authorized by law, as case law defining such sentences ruled that they included dispositions not authorized by the criminal code.

The court noted that the defendant’s argument that his sentences were not authorized by the criminal code was based on his interpretation of numerous statutes, and explained that questions related to statutory interpretation are legal in nature and therefore such decisions must be reviewed de novo, without deference to the decisions of the trial court. The court ultimately found that the plain language of the applicable laws permitted the sentence imposed by the trial court. Thus, it rejected the defendant’s assertion that it was illegal.

Meet with a Knowledgeable New Jersey DWI Defense Attorney

If a person with a prior DWI conviction is arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated, it will likely be considered a second offense DWI in NJ, which carries significant penalties. If you are accused of a second or subsequent DWI offense, you should speak to an attorney as soon as possible to discuss your options. The knowledgeable New Jersey DWI defense attorneys of The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall can assess the facts of your case and develop a strategy to help you pursue the best outcome available under the circumstances. You can reach us via our form online or at 877-450-8301 to set up a conference.


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