When charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI) in New Jersey there are many things to consider. If a person is caught driving after having used alcohol, hallucinogenic drugs, addictive narcotics or other scheduled drugs the consequences are numerous. If a person has a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or above he or she can be charged with DWI. This is a serious traffic violation that can lead to jail time, heavy fines, loss of driving privileges as well as other problems.
DWI is costly in a multitude of ways but someone convicted (found guilty) of DWI sometimes has options to appeal the conviction. There are a few reasons that an appeal may be warranted although it is important to note that DWI appeals in New Jersey are not commonly successful. We will discuss the grounds for appealing a DWI conviction below.
Standard Of Proof For A DWI Conviction
The elements required to be proven by the prosecutor for a finding of guilt of driving under the influence in New Jersey are:
- Of a vehicle or vessel
- By a person
- While intoxicated, and/or
- With a blood alcohol or alcohol concentration at, or above, the limit set by the statute
Because a DWI is considered a “quasi-criminal” offense in New Jersey, the standard of proof necessary for a conviction is “beyond a reasonable doubt”. This means that each element required above must be proven to have occurred by that standard. In the case of a DWI violation, the 'beyond a reasonable doubt' standard can be met based exclusively upon the observational testimony of the arresting police officer that the defendant was operating a motor vehicle while under the influence. This means that the finding that the driver was under the influence can be based upon the officer's testimony of his or her observations of the defendant, admissions by the defendant, field sobriety tests and the training and experience of the officer. A breath test is not required to prove that a driver was intoxicated at the time of the offense.
Grounds For A New Jersey DWI Appeal
If there is reason to believe that your DWI conviction was issued based on a violation of the required burden of proof discussed above, it could be grounds for an appeal of your DWI conviction. There might have been a procedural error at your DWI trial that could be grounds for overturning your conviction or at least issuing you a new trial.
When a person pleads guilty to the charge of DWI, it is imperative that the individual is aware of the consequences for the decision and understands the ramifications thereafter. If, for example, the person was not aware of or didn't understand the penalties he or she is subject to for the guilty plea, or if the defendant was improperly sentenced according to the laws, then it might be cause for an appeal of the conviction.
In New Jersey, a defendant found guilty of DWI might sometimes feel as though the process is over and there can be little done to change their inevitable sentence, penalties and fines. However, there may be options available. You may be able to pursue an appeal of your DWI conviction under certain circumstances. It is recommended that you speak with an experienced New Jersey DWI attorney if you think that you may have grounds for an appeal.
Realistically, you have nothing to lose if you appeal your DWI. Even if you fail to have your conviction overturned or sentence reduced through the appeal process, you cannot receive a sentence modification more severe than you have already been given by the municipal court during your DWI conviction.
DWI Appeal Process In New Jersey
Upon the municipal court's finding of guilt or your entrance of a guilty plea, your attorney can file an appeal to the New Jersey Superior Court to be heard by a judge. No new evidence is admitted in a DWI appeal, so he or she will base their decision solely on the record from the court below. Here are the steps which will occur during a DWI appeal:
- After review of your record for the underlying charge, your attorney will file notice in Superior Court that you are appealing the final outcome of your DWI conviction within 20 days of your conviction.
- The Superior Court judge will review your municipal court record.
- The judge will decide to either affirm or remand your sentence based on the application of previous case law to your case.
The two possible results of a DWI appeal include your sentence being affirmed or remanded back to the municipal court. If your sentence is affirmed, this means that nothing was discovered to be wrong and your current sentence stands. If your case is remanded to the municipal court, that means that enough erroneous information in your DWI sentencing was found and the case, or parts of your sentence, are sent down to the appropriate municipal court where the judge must reevaluate your DWI conviction in accordance with the Superior Court's recommendations.
What If I Lose My DWI Appeal?
If you lose your DWI appeal and your original conviction is affirmed, you have 45 days from the date of this decision to further appeal your case to the Superior Court Appellate Division. In the Appellate Division, your case will be heard by a panel of judges. The judges will look over the case, evidence, motions and arguments made to both of the lower courts before making their ruling.
Contact A DWI Attorney To Discuss Appealing A DWI In NJ
If you or a loved one have been convicted of DWI in New Jersey, it's imperative that you are aware of your rights during trial and after a conviction. The law firm of Villani & DeLuca in Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey can help you with your case even after a conviction is issued.
Even if you entered a guilty plea or were found guilty by a judge, there may be a possibility that there are grounds to have the decision overturned. The long-term issues that can arise from a DWI conviction can have lasting effects on one's life and, if there's an opportunity to successfully appeal the verdict, you owe it to yourself to understand and explore your options. If you have been charged with a DWI in Ocean County or Monmouth County, New Jersey, contact Villani & DeLuca to discuss and evaluate your case today.