New Jersey Court Discusses Standard of Review on Appeals from DWI Convictions

In many instances in which a person is convicted of a New Jersey DWI offense, he or she will appeal his or her municipal court conviction, and in some instances, will appeal a conviction from the Law Division as well. Whether an appeal from either court will be successful depends on several factors, however, and varies from case to case. Recently, a New Jersey appellate court discussed the standard of review that applies at each level in a case in which the defendant appealed his DWI conviction arguing, in part, that there was insufficient evidence to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If you are faced with accusations that you committed a New Jersey DWI crime, it is advisable to speak with a dedicated New Jersey DWI defense attorney to discuss your options for protecting your rights.

Factual Background

It is reported that the defendant was observed by an anonymous source leaving a beach wearing only a jacket, getting into a truck, and driving down a nearby road. The police investigated and found the defendant in the driver’s seat of a truck that was parked in the wrong direction. The police approached the vehicle and spoke with the defendant, who had slurred speech and was only wearing a jacket tied around his waist.

Allegedly, the defendant submitted to field sobriety tests, which he failed, after which he was arrested and transported to the police station for chemical testing. He was subsequently charged with DWI, careless driving, and reckless driving. He was convicted in the municipal court of DWI and careless driving, after which he appealed to the Law Division, where he was again found guilty. He then appealed to the Superior Court, arguing, in part, that the Law Division erred in finding him guilty de novo.

Standard of Review on Appeal

Under New Jersey law, in an appeal from a municipal court to the Law Division, the review is de novo on the record, which means that the evidence must be reviewed anew. In other words, the Law Division must develop its own findings of fact and conclusions of law, based on the evidence produced at the lower level. The Law Division does not have to draw conclusions regarding credibility, however, and can rely on the municipal court’s findings.

Subsequently, when the Superior Court reviews a de novo finding of the Law Division, it must determine whether the finding is reasonable based on the credible evidence of the record, on consideration of the proof as a whole. Further, the Superior Court is more compelled to defer to a de novo ruling when the municipal court and Law Division made the same findings, and will not overturn such rulings absent an obvious error of law. As such, the court declined to overturn the lower court rulings and affirmed the defendant’s convictions.

Speak with a Zealous New Jersey DWI Defense Attorney

If you are faced with charges that you committed a DWI offense in New Jersey, it is prudent to speak with a zealous New Jersey DWI defense attorney regarding your case. The experienced DWI defense attorneys of the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall have the knowledge and skills needed to help you seek a favorable outcome, and we will work tirelessly on your behalf. We can be reached via our online form or at 877-450-8301 to set up a meeting.

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