The Aftermath Of A DWI Conviction
In 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?
No. Your license will not be automatically reinstated after the suspension period has passed. The municipal court will take your driver’s license in court at sentencing. Your driving privilege will be revoked. This revocation will last for a day or so if you are convicted on a first offense DWI with a breath test result of less than 0.15 or a first offense of breath test refusal. Otherwise, there will be a definite period of driving privilege revocation.
When whatever revocation period runs, you will have to go to the Motor Vehicle Commission, pay a $100 restoration fee, and show proof that you’ve installed an alcohol ignition interlock device in whatever vehicle you principally operate. Once you do those things, you will initially get a restricted driving privilege limiting you to driving that vehicle equipped with the interlock. After the interlock restriction time passes, your driving privilege will automatically revert to full driving privileges without the interlock restriction.
When the interlock restriction period ends, you should 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.
Whether you are convicted of DWI or breath test refusal or both, the Motor Vehicle Commission will bill you for surcharges. These surcharges are taxes that have nothing to do with your insurance policy. A so-called Merit Rating Plan surcharge, usually $3,000, is payable in either three annual payments or 36 monthly installments over three years. There are also safe driving surcharges of between $525 and $675, depending on how your driving record was for the three years preceding the conviction. While these surcharges are a lot of money to most people, they seem able to accommodate them because payment’s stretch 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, in 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. There is no time limit on when a person can apply to vacate a guilty plea for this reason.
- 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 to even bother building a defense. A person must apply for post-conviction relief for this reason within five years of the conviction unless good reason exists for the delay in applying.
- No attorney representation
If you had no attorney representing you on a prior conviction and there is no evidence that the court advised you of your right to have an attorney, you may be entitled to limited post-conviction relief reducing jail exposure. There is no time limit on when a person can apply for post-conviction relief for this reason.
DWI and breath test refusal convictions lead to large fines, court costs, and other assessments, among other significant consequences. Offenders must also attend classes at in Intoxicated Driver Resource Center or “IDRC” and, in some cases, serve jail time.
For a first offense, there is a possible jail sentence of 30 days, but 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 offender go to jail. Even though a jail term is authorized by statute, practically speaking, it doesn’t mean much.
For second offenders, there is mandatory jail of no less than two days and no more than 90 days. More often than not, courts impose a two-day jail term, but convert that to IDRC. What this means is that you will have 48 hours in a dormitory-like setting with a bunch of movies and education. It is “custody” but not “jail.”
Third offenders must serve 180 days in jail, although they can receive a credit against the jail term for each day of in-patient alcohol rehabilitation for which they are hospitalized. No credit is available for less intensive forms of alcohol rehabilitation like out-patient treatment or alcohol counselling.
While judges are charged with advising those convicted of consequences, they don’t necessarily have to advise them of all the consequences. They 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. Their 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. And, as mentioned above, there are no time limits for certain grounds like an inadequate factual basis or failure to give advice about getting an attorney.
One of the factors a court must weigh is how prejudiced the State would be in pursuing a prosecution should they reopen the case. When seeking post-conviction relief, generally the relief the petitioner seeks is to vacate the entire prior conviction and start over. In other words, the court would vacate the conviction, reinstate any dismissed charges, and grant a new trial. As you can imagine, cops retire, memories fade, and evidence gets lost over the years. If a conviction is vacated, there is a better shot of winning the case at trial.
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.
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