The New Jersey Supreme Court has ruled that defendants convicted of multiple DWIs may use the “step-down” provision more than once in order to reduce a prison term. However, the step-down provision is only permissible if 10 years have passed since the previous DWI conviction.
What is the ‘Step-Down’ Provision (N.J.S.A. 39:4-50(a)(3))?
The “step-down” provision is important to be aware of if you have been charged with multiple NJ DWI offenses. Normally, the sentencing for a second or third DWI offense in New Jersey will carry significantly harsher penalties than the previous conviction. Yet this provision allows your second offense to be treated as first offense or a third offense to be treated as a second offense, as long as 10 years have passed.
The provision states:
“If the second offense occurs more than 10 years after the first offense, the court shall treat the second conviction as a first offense for sentencing purposes. If the third offense occurs more than 10 years after the second offense, the court shall treat the third conviction as a second offense for sentencing purposes.”
State v. Revie
The defendant in this case was convicted of a DWI in 2011, but his previous DWI conviction came in 1994. Since more than 10 years had passed since the previous conviction, the defendant attempted to utilize the “step-down” provision to have his sentence reduced. The court ruled against the defendant under the belief that the “step-down” provision could only be used once.
The Supreme Court of New Jersey disagreed with the initial ruling and allowed the defendant to “step down” for sentencing purposes. However, the court also ruled that a defendant may not use this provision in regard to reduced penalties, license suspensions or the installation of interlock ignition devices; It can only be used to reduce jail time for a DWI conviction.
“Based upon the plain language of [the statute], we hold that a repeat DWI offender may invoke the statutory ‘step-down’ provision a second time,” Justice Anne Patterson wrote for the court.
How It Affects You
If you have been charged with a second or third DWI offense in the state of New Jersey, you may be able to invoke the “step-down” provision in order to reduce possible jail time as long as 10 years have passed since your previous DWI conviction. A reduced jail sentence can make a big difference in your life if you are convicted.
Speak With a NJ DWI Lawyer
If you have been charged with a NJ DWI, contact an experience DWI attorney today. Your legal representation can explain your rights and help you construct a sturdy legal strategy based on the circumstances of your arrest. Contact Villani & DeLuca today to learn more about NJ DWI charges and your options according to the law.