New Jersey Court Discusses Standard of Review for DWI Appeals

In a New Jersey DWI case, the State must prove in municipal court beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of the charged offenses. A defendant that is convicted despite insufficient evidence has the right to appeal to the law division. The law division must abide by certain requirements on review, and if it does not, its decision may be overruled as well. In a recent opinion, a New Jersey court discussed the law division’s obligations in evaluating a DWI defendant’s appeal in a case in which the defendant argued the State’s evidence was inadequate to prove his guilt.  If you are charged with a DWI offense in New Jersey, it is critical to understand your rights, and you should meet with a seasoned New Jersey DWI defense attorney as soon as possible.

Procedural History of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was charged with and convicted of DWI. He appealed to the law division, and his conviction was affirmed. The case then went through numerous rounds of appeals and remands, each of which resulted in rulings affirming his conviction. He appealed his conviction to the Superior Court a third time, arguing in part that the law division erred in applying an appellate standard instead of conducting the de novo analysis which was required by law. The court agreed and once again remanded the matter to the law division for review.

Standard of Review on DWI Appeals

Under New Jersey law, when a defendant appeals from a conviction in a municipal court, the law division must defer to the municipal court’s credibility findings but must otherwise develop its own conclusions of law and findings of fact. In other words, the law division is required to review the evidence anew, or de novo, based on the record developed in the municipal court while giving due regard to the ability of the municipal court judge to assess the credibility of the witnesses.

While the law division must issue rulings based on the evidence, it is limited to the evidentiary record of the municipal court. The law division does not affirm or reverse the ruling of the municipal court but must come to its own conclusion.

In the subject case, however, the appellate court noted that the law division judge stated that his role in the matter was to determine whether the municipal court could have reasonably come to its conclusion based on the evidence of record. Further, the judge stated that he considered evidence outside of the record. Thus, the court found the law division judge failed to comply with the required standard of review and remanded the case for further proceedings.

Speak to an Experienced New Jersey DWI Defense Attorney

Judges do not always rule properly in DWI cases, and many convictions are overturned on appeal. If you are charged with a first offense DWI in New Jersey it is advisable to speak to a lawyer regarding your case. The experienced New Jersey DWI defense attorneys of The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall are skilled at helping people charged with DWI offenses seek just outcomes. If you engage our services, we will advocate zealously on your behalf. You can reach us through our form online or at 877-450-8301 to schedule a meeting.

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