New Jersey Municipal Courts See the Lion’s Share of DWI-DUI Cases

Nobody ever said that being arrested and charged with a DWI was going to be a pleasant experience. For most people, getting a drunk driving summons or being held in jail overnight to “dry out” can not only be an embarrassing experience, but it can also be rather frightening. This is especially true when one begins to consider the repercussions of such an encounter with the possibility of a conviction and any associated penalties; those fines, fees and statutory assessments can run in the thousands of dollars, which makes a drunken driving arrest potentially costly from a financial standpoint as well.

For the record, the state of New Jersey has for some time banned the legal practice of plea bargaining for those defendants who are facing charges of driving while intoxicated. This is generally the case, unless there is some serious legal issue at stake or if there is a major flaw in the prosecution’s case. Barring a genuine legal issue, judges are barred from entertaining any thought of a dismissal or even the downgrading of a drunk driving charge.

As professional DWI defense attorneys, we know that the secret to success in avoiding a conviction (or in winning a downgrade in a defendant’s charges) is identifying certain key issues that reduce the strength of the state’s arguments. This is where our firm’s unique DWI law training and trial experience can prove invaluable. At my firm, the attorneys who make up the Jonathan F. Marshall legal defense team have credentials that are, quite frankly, second to none.

The state’s use of breathalyzer readings, such as those from the Draeger Alcotest 7110 device, or blood tests are usually one of the key pieces of evidence presented in court to prove that the defendant’s blood-alcohol concentration(BAC) was above the legal limit of 0.08 percent at the time of the arrest. In fact, most of the DWI and drug DUI cases settled in the state of New Jersey take place in local municipal courts usually not too far from the location of the drunk driving offense.

Unless a drunk driving charge has been essentially rolled together with what we refer to as an “indictable” charge, the venue for that DWI case is typically the municipal court in the jurisdiction where the offense occurred. While many first-time intoxicated driving offenders might think otherwise, there is also no legal right to have one’s DWI or DUI case decided by a jury. To the contrary, any factual and legal issues are decided by the judge presiding over that particular municipal courtroom.

On the matter of policy, there are several considerations which can actually work against those who are accused of DWI, all of which can illustrate the point that having a qualified legal professional at one’s side is not overkill; far from it, as having an experienced attorney is often the best choice when facing serious penalties like those tied to a DWI or drug DUI offense.

The first consideration that most anyone who has been arrested and charged with drunken driving is that the lawmakers in Trenton have demonstrated through establishment of certain statutes a dominant legislative purpose to eliminate intoxicated drivers from Garden State roadways. The second consideration is that the state’s judicial system has continually sought to refine the efficient prosecution of DWI cases by attempting to eliminate various obstacles to successful conclusion of DWI-DUI cases.

In general, what this all means is that the tight time frames for resolving drunken driving cases, as well as the elimination of many of the defenses that trial lawyers have traditionally used to help their clients has made it nearly imperative to find a skilled DWI attorney before going into court. For many people who have tried and failed to fight for their rights solo, the results have only demonstrated that it is important to select the right lawyer to fight drunk driving charges.

To summarize, and for those curious about next steps following a drunk driving arrest, first and foremost is that the New Jersey drunk driving statutes strictly prohibit plea bargaining of a DWI charge. Second, there is no right that allows the defendant in a DWI case to have a jury trial (and this even includes instances involving the very real risk of significant jail time). Third, the New Jersey judicial system obliges the local municipal courts to hear drunk driving cases within 60 days of a summons.

From this, one can understand that not only does the state government take the prosecution of DWI offenders very seriously, pressure is also exerted on municipal court judges to approach DWI cases with the same seriousness under the law (N.J.S.A. 39:4-50). Anyone who has been accused of drinking and driving should avail themselves of the services provided by many qualified attorneys in this area of the law. Just like that offered by our law firm, free initial consultations are usually provided by reputable attorneys. Consider speaking with someone before entering a courtroom to plead your case.

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