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NJ Justices to Consider Jury Trials for Repeat DWI Offenders

Posted by Carmine R. Villani | Feb 24, 2015 | 0 Comments

It is a well-known fact that DWI offenders are not entitled to a trial by jury in New Jersey. New Jersey DWI laws have not allowed jury trials in 25 years. So when the NJ Supreme Court agreed to hear the appeal of four-time DWI offender James Denelsbeck, who is facing a minimum sentence of 180 days in jail and who demanded a jury trial, attorneys around the state took notice.
In 1990, the NJ Supreme Court ruled in State v. Hamm that DWI cases are not criminal trials but rather motor vehicle offenses, even when the accused may face time behind bars. In 1989, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Blanton v. Las Vegas that DWI offenders facing jail time of six months or less are not guaranteed by jury trials. The municipal, superior and appellate courts initially dismissed Denelsbeck's appeal.
“Despite the fact that the Legislature regards DWI as a profound social problem, it has yet to impose the full force of law on that offense that would denote a social evaluation that DWI is a ‘crime' or an offense that equates with the need of trial by jury,” Judges Carmen Alvarez and Harry Carroll said, according to the NJ Law Journal.
However, by agreeing to hear the appeal, the NJ Supreme Court could potentially order trials by jury for third- and fourth-time DWI offenders. A new bill (A1368), which was passed by New Jersey Legislature, reduces license suspensions for first-time DWI offenders, but could increase penalties for multiple DWI offenders. This would mean that DWI offenders could face more than a 180-day sentence, which could entitle them to jury trials.
If the NJ Supreme Court does change the direction of DWI laws in New Jersey, it could be a major breakthrough. If you would like to learn more about how this case could affect you, contact a DWI lawyer today. If you have been charged with DWI, contact Villani & DeLuca at 732-709-7757.

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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