New Jersey Court Explains Grounds for Post-Conviction Relief in DWI Cases

Typically, people who decide to enter a guilty plea to DWI charges are represented by counsel who has fully explained their rights as criminal defendants and the implications of entering such a plea. However, regardless of whether someone enters a plea with or without the presence of an attorney, the court is required to provide a defendant with a colloquy to ensure they fully understand the consequences of pleading guilty. If a proper colloquy is not provided, it may constitute grounds for post-conviction relief. As explained in a recent New Jersey opinion, though, a request for post-conviction relief must be timely; otherwise, it may be denied. If you are charged with a DWI crime, it is smart to speak to a New Jersey DWI defense lawyer to determine your rights.

The History of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant was arrested for a first offense DWI in 2010. He was represented by counsel during his plea hearing and entered a guilty plea. He specifically admitted that he drove under the influence of alcohol and did not object to the admission of a report regarding his blood alcohol level into evidence. He stated he understood the evidence was more than adequate to support his conviction, and that is why he decided to plead guilty. Further, he advised the judge that he entered his plea voluntarily and freely.

It is reported that he was sentenced to the minimum fines and penalties, and his license was revoked for seven months. In June 2019, the defendant filed a petition for post-conviction relief, arguing he was not provided a proper colloquy. The trial court denied his petition, finding that the colloquy was adequate, and the defendant appealed.

Motions for Post-Conviction Relief

The appellate court affirmed the trial court ruling but on different grounds. Specifically, the court explained that while a petition for post-conviction relief based on the grounds that a sentence is illegal can be filed at any time, a petition asserting any other arguments must be filed within five years of the entry of the judgment of conviction or the sentence imposed. There are exceptions for cases involving excusable neglect.

In the subject case, the court noted that the defendant received the minimum sentence, and therefore his penalties were not illegal. Thus, he was required to file his petition for post-conviction relief within five years of the date of his conviction. As he did not file the petition until nine years after the conviction, his petition was time-barred.

Speak to a Knowledgeable New Jersey DWI Defense Attorney

While in some cases it is prudent for a DWI defendant to plead guilty, it is vital that people charged with first offense DWI crimes fully understand their rights prior to entering a plea. If you are accused of a DWI offense, the knowledgeable New Jersey DWI defense attorneys of The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall can inform you of your options and help you to determine what strategy will provide you with a strong chance of a successful outcome. We can be contacted through our online form or at 877-450-8301 to set up a meeting.

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