New Jersey Court Discusses Mitigating Factors in DWI Sentencing

In some cases in which a defendant is charged with DWI, the State has compelling evidence, and it is prudent for the defendant to enter into a plea agreement to reduce the possibility of the imposition of a significant penalty. Thus, a defendant may plead guilty in exchange for a reduced sentence. Often, however, even though the defendant and the State entered into a plea agreement, they will disagree as to what constitutes an appropriate sentence, and ultimately what sentence the defendant receives is up to the judge. While a sentencing judge has discretion in determining a suitable penalty, he or she nonetheless must consider all relevant factors in assessing what is appropriate. This was demonstrated in a recent New Jersey DWI case in which the appellate court overturned a sentence imposed by the trial court due to the judge’s failure to consider all mitigating factors. If you are charged with a DWI offense in New Jersey, it is wise to speak with a vigilant New Jersey DWI defense attorney to discuss your alternatives for protecting your interests.

Factual and Procedural Background

Allegedly, the defendant was driving his vehicle at approximately 8:00 pm when he struck and killed a pedestrian that was walking through an intersection. When police arrived at the scene, they interviewed the defendant, who smelled of alcohol and was lethargic. The defendant agreed to submit to a breath test, which revealed his blood alcohol content to be 0.08 %. He was ultimately charged with third-degree vehicular homicide and driving while intoxicated.

It is reported that the defendant entered into a negotiated plea agreement with the State. At the sentencing hearing, he was advised that the State intended to request that he be sentenced to probation and be required to serve 364 days in a correction center as a condition of his probation. The defendant’s attorney requested that the court sentence the defendant to probation only. During the sentencing hearing, the court refused to consider all mitigating factors and imposed the State’s proposed sentence on the defendant. The defendant appealed.

Mitigating Factors in DWI Sentencing

On appeal, the appellate court found that the sentencing court erred as a matter of law in refusing to weigh all mitigating factors. Specifically, the appellate court noted that the sentencing court based its refusal to weigh the victim’s negligence as a mitigating factor on a statute that stated that it was not a defense to prosecution of a charge of vehicular homicide that the deceased person contributed to his or her death. The appellate court clarified, however, that the sentencing court’s reliance on the statute was improper, as it only applied to the prosecution of the offense, and was not a basis for refusing to consider the victim’s negligence during sentencing. Thus, the appellate court reversed the sentence and remanded for further proceedings.

Speak with a Trusted New Jersey DWI Defense Attorney

If you are accused of committing a DWI offense in New Jersey, it is advisable to speak with a trusted New Jersey DWI defense attorney regarding your options for obtaining a favorable outcome under the circumstances. The knowledgeable New Jersey DWI defense attorneys of the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall can advise you of your rights and assist you in developing a suitable plan of action in your case. We can be contacted at  877-450-8301 or via our online form to schedule a consultation.


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