New Jersey DWI Attorney John Menzel

The Aftermath Of A DWI Conviction


The Aftermath Of A DWI ConvictionIn this article, you will learn…

  • How to reinstate your driver’s license after suspension,
  • What fees you will have to pay related to your suspension, and
  • How you can have a prior DWI conviction overturned.

After The Suspended Driving License Period Has Passed, Is My License Automatically Reinstated?

Your license will not be automatically reinstated after the suspension period has passed. You will actually have to go to the Motor Vehicle Commission, pay a $100 restoration fee, and show proof that you’ve installed the alcohol ignition interlock device.

Once you do those things, you will initially get a restricted driving privilege if you are a first-time offender. That is, you’re going to be limited to driving that vehicle equipped with the interlock.

After the time passes, your privilege will automatically revert to full driving privileges without the restriction. At that point, it is recommended that you go to the Motor Vehicle Commission and obtain a new physical driver’s license because your other one will have the interlock restriction imprinted on it.

While you aren’t required to do this, no one wants to be pulled over for something innocuous like speeding and have a cop see “interlock required” and potentially give you another ticket that could expose you to a one-year loss of license. You would win the charge, but you’d still have to deal with defending the ticket. You can prevent this by paying $18 for a new physical license.

In addition, if you refuse a breath test you will be billed for things they call surcharges or taxes to the tune of $3,000 that is payable over three years. There are also safe driving surcharges, which are between $525 and $675. Those are also paid off over a three-year period. While it is a lot of money, most people seem to be able to accommodate it because it’s stretched out over a long period.

If I Have A Prior DWI Conviction, Can I Have Them Overturned Or Nullified So That They Do Not Affect A Current Arrest?

In certain circumstances, you can challenge the viability of a prior DWI conviction through a process called post-conviction relief.  Unlike the initial charge where the state has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and post-conviction relief proceedings, you, the defendant, have the burden of establishing a basis on which to vacate that plea by a standard of proof called a preponderance of the evidence. A preponderance of the evidence means that you are more likely than not not guilty.

Two common reasons to vacate a conviction are…

  • Inadequate factual basis

When you plead guilty, you have to tell the judge what it is that makes you guilty and, if that doesn’t exist, that’s a reason to vacate a plea. We don’t want to have innocent people convicted.

  • Ineffective assistance of counsel

There may have been something pretty obvious that the attorney overlooked or failed to do that improperly led to the conviction. That’s a pretty high bar to establish but it does happen. I have reviewed cases where the facts just didn’t make out guilt, but the defense attorney was simply too lazy to investigate or even bother with building a defense.

While judges are charged with advising you of consequences, they don’t necessarily have to advise you of all the consequences. You may have gone through the process without an attorney. In a case like that, failure to advise of consequences is more significant. The quality of the judiciary has improved greatly over the years, however. The training has improved so that errors like these are less frequent in more recent cases than in older cases.

The rules concerning post-conviction relief require that such petitions be made within five years of the date of conviction. However, there is case law permitting a person to file more than five years later if they can show a good reason for doing so.

One of the factors that a court has to weigh is how prejudiced the state would be in pursuing a prosecution should they reopen the case. When you’re looking for post-conviction relief, generally the relief you’re seeking is to vacate the entire prior conviction and start over. In other words, the state would have to retry you if the post-conviction relief petition is granted.

As you can imagine, cops retire, memories fade, and evidence gets lost over the years. If you do get a conviction vacated, you have a little better shot to win that case if it’s reopened. There are circumstances where judges may give very limited relief rather than reopening the case. They might grant that the prior conviction can’t be used to enhance a jail sentence, for example.

For a first offense, there’s a possible jail sentence of 30 days that is almost never imposed. Only very serious first offenses result in jail time. I’ve had two such cases; one resulting in a fatality and one resulting in a serious head injury to the other driver in an accident. Otherwise, I’ve never seen a first time offender go to jail. So, even though it’s in the statute, practically speaking, it doesn’t really mean much.

There is mandatory jail for second offenders that is no less than two days and no more than 90 days. If you get a two-day jail term, they’ll generally convert that to something called the Intoxicated Driver Resource Center (IDRC). What this means is that you will have 48 hours in a dormitory-like setting with a bunch of movies and education – so it isn’t really “jail”.

With the guidance of a skilled attorney for DUI Law, you can have the peace of mind that comes with knowing that we’ll make it look easy.  For more information on DUI Law in New Jersey, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (732) 218-9090 today.

John Menzel, J.D.

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