New Jersey Court Discusses Prior Out of State DWI Convictions for Sentencing Purposes

Under New Jersey law, a person convicted of a second or subsequent DWI may be subject to additional penalties. Further, a defendant may face additional penalties if he or she was previously convicted of a DWI or a similar offense in a state other than New Jersey. Recently, a New Jersey appellate court addressed what constitutes a similar offense for purposes of subsequent convictions in a case in which the defendant argued that a prior conviction for drunk driving in New York should not count towards his penalty assessment. If you are accused of a second or subsequent DWI offense in New Jersey, it is advisable to consult a seasoned New Jersey DWI defense attorney to talk about your potential defenses.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was charged with and convicted of committing a DWI offense. The defendant had a prior New Jersey DWI conviction as well as a conviction for driving while his ability was impaired in New York. Thus, the court considered the defendant as a third time DWI offender and sentenced the defendant to a 180 day prison sentence and a ten-year license suspension. The defendant appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in deeming his New York conviction a violation of a substantially similar law. On appeal, the court affirmed.

Violation of a Substantially Similar Nature

Under New Jersey’s DWI law, a conviction for violating a law in another jurisdiction that is substantially similar in nature to New Jersey’s DWI law is considered a prior conviction for New Jersey DWI purposes, unless the defendant produces clear and convincing evidence that establishes that the conviction in the other jurisdiction was based solely on a violation of a law involving a blood alcohol concentration of less than .08%. Thus, New Jersey courts have held that a New York driving while ability is impaired conviction is substantially similar to driving under the influence pursuant to New Jersey law for the purposes of sentence enhancement, unless the defendant can prove otherwise.

In the subject case, the court did not adopt the defendant’s reasoning that a driving while ability is impaired conviction indicated circumstances in which the defendant’s blood alcohol concentration was below .08%, noting that a person could be convicted of that offense rather than a DWI simply because there was no evidence of the person’s blood alcohol concentration. Further, the court noted that a person who was convicted of driving while ability is impaired under New York law still committed a substantially similar offense to a New Jersey DWI, regardless of whether his or her blood alcohol concentration was below .08% at the time of the conviction, as long as a reading below .08% was not the sole reason for the conviction. As such, the court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Meet with a Trusted New Jersey DWI Defense Attorney

If you are charged with a second or subsequent DWI offense in New Jersey, it is wise to meet with a trusted New Jersey DWI defense attorney regarding your rights. The capable defense attorneys of the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall possess the skills and resources to help you seek the best legal outcome possible in your case, and we will fight diligently on your behalf.  You can contact us via our form online or at 877-450-8301 to set up a consultation.

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