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NJ Supreme Court Rules No Jury Trial for DWI

Posted by Carmine R. Villani | Aug 08, 2016 | 0 Comments

Judge with Gavel

The New Jersey Supreme Court recently ruled that there is no requirement for a jury trial, when deciding a conviction for DWI, even when the accused faces jail time. In May the New Jersey Supreme Court, in a 5-1 opinion, ruled on a case of whether a driver is entitled to a jury trial for a DWI. In 2011, a driver was pulled over for failing to stop at a red light in Ventnor and subsequently arrested when his blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was 0.12%.  The driver, who had three prior DWI convictions, request for a jury trial in municipal court was denied. The driver was found guilty of DWI and failure to observe a traffic signal and the court sentenced him to 180 days in the Atlantic County jail, a ten-year driver's license suspension, two years mandatory use of an ignition interlock device, twelve hours in the Intoxicated Driver Resource Center (IDRC) and approximately $1,500 in fines, fees, costs and surcharges.

The driver's attorneys had argued that the driver was entitled to a jury trial under the Sixth Amendment to The United States Constitution and that the incarceration he faced along with costly fines, fees and surcharges constituted a right to a jury trial because these factors made it a serious crime. The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that the maximum incarceration penalty was not lengthy, therefore petty and the potential financial costs were not high enough, therefore not serious. The decision was that the case did not have elements to elevate the offense to a jury trial as provided under the Sixth Amendment.

The Court's decision relied heavily upon a 1991 New Jersey Supreme Court case that a DWI is not a criminal offense but instead a motor vehicle offense. The Court stated, “Third or subsequent DWI offenders are not entitled to a jury trial, and defendant's conviction procured by a bench trial did not violate his Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial.”

DWI Defense Attorney In Ocean County

If you have been arrested for drunk driving in Seaside Heights, LBI or Point Pleasant Beach it's important to hire a DWI defense lawyer like those at Villani & DeLuca. Our firm has been representing clients across Ocean County since 1996. Call 732-965-3999 today for a free consultation.

About the Author

Carmine R. Villani

Founding partner, Carmine Villani, Esq. is a former municipal prosecutor with over three decades of experience in Criminal and DWI Defense.


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