NJ Drunk Driving Defense Attorney Update: Garden State Motorists Seeking Post-Conviction Relief

As a former municipal prosecutor and now an advocate for drivers accused of operating their motor vehicles while impaired by the consumption of beer, wine or hard liquor, as well as doctor-prescribed medications or even illicit drugs, I and my legal team make it our goal to provide the best defense for every one of our clients who have been charged with DWI or drug DUI.

Here in the Garden State, hundreds of motorists are pulled over every week all across the state; many of these individuals are arrested and charged with operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated. Some of these drivers will hire a DWI defense attorney to handle their case, while others will try to make a go of it one their own. Some will have their cases thrown out for one or more reasons, although many will likely be convicted and have to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars in fines, court fees and increase auto insurance rates.

Anyone who drives a vehicle in New Jersey probably understands that driving under the influence of alcohol or prescription drugs drunk driving is considered a very serious traffic offense under this state’s laws. And, as we’ve mentioned many times before, there are severe penalties for those convicted of DWI-DUI.

Of course, receiving a citation for almost any kind of motor vehicle offense can be costly, but not to the extent that a DWI conviction will affect one’s wallet. And what many people do not understand is that “rolling over” for that first charge of drunken driving and accepting a guilty verdict only makes a subsequent charge and possible conviction for DWI that much more costly, both in monetary terms as well as loss of driving privileges.

Even though a first DWI conviction may already be one the books, there may be some recourse available to drivers who wish to improve their situation. As New Jersey DWI lawyers, one of the services that our firm can provide to a client who has already been convicted of drunk driving is what we refer to as “post-conviction relief” or PCR. This pertains to that set forth in Rule 7:10-2 of the New Jersey criminal statutes; it includes the specific grounds that allow for a defendant to apply for post-conviction relief in a DWI, DUI or breath-test refusal case.

A brief listing of these grounds include the following:

A) That there was a substantial denial of an individual’s constitutional right in conjunction with the drunk driving conviction
B) That a lack of jurisdiction existed on the part of the particular municipal court that imposed the order of conviction on the defendant regarding the charge of DWI, DUI or breath-test refusal
C) That the penalties or sentence imposed on the defendant for the DWI offense was excessive under the law
D) Or, that there are any other grounds available as a collateral attack under the law

There is much more to the PCR statute than included here; however, a qualified DWI-DUI attorney will know whether or not relief is possible for a driver previously convicted of DWI. This rule typically imposes a five-year time limitation beginning from the date of the conviction, though this limitation may be flexible based on the following: 1) Where the application is based on an illegal drunk driving, drug DUI or refusal sentence and, 2) Where the delay was based on excusable neglect.

For those who may be affected by the PCR rule, it is critical to remember that such an application will not be entertained in situations where the litigant already has the legal right to an appeal. Also, as any experienced DWI trial attorney will know, the burden of proof for a PCR application is a preponderance of the credible evidence.

What we as New Jersey DWI-DUI lawyers find is that PCR applications usually pursued under four types of circumstances regarding DWI convictions. First, in cases where the litigant alleges that the court’s sentence — be it jail time or a license suspension — was excessive. Second, where a litigant is looking to vacate a plea based on the lack of a factual basis taken at the time of the plea (this should be consistent with the precedent set in State v. Barboza). Third, in situations where the litigant is attempting to avoid incarceration and is alleging a State v. Laurick defense (The Laurick case involved a defendant who was not represented by counsel previously). Lastly, where there is a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel.

Of course, one can only fully understand his or her options vis-à-vis post-conviction relief by speaking with an experienced DWI attorney. This is only one of many examples of why it is always advisable to consult a legal professional before stepping foot in a courtroom. The stakes can be quite high; why risk your future on a hunch? If you believe you might have a valid basis for post-conviction relief, we encourage you to contact our firm and learn more about your rights.

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