What Happens After Someone Is Charged With Driving While Suspended?
Driving while suspended is similar to a DWI in that, unless the prosecution offers the right deal, you have no incentive to plead guilty. Given the absence of any meaningful downside risk, you should go to trial. If indicted for the crime of driving while revoked after a DWI conviction, a jury trial would take place in the Superior Court of the County where the charge arose. At the municipal level where the charge is classified as a traffic offense, a bench trial would take place before a municipal court judge, unless the prosecutor were to offer a plea bargain to something like driving with an invalid license, failure to have a proper credential in possession, or, in the case of out-of-state drivers, driving with an invalid touring privilege.
Because charges of driving with a suspended or revoked license are more readily plea bargained, they may resolve more quickly. Consequences and different plea scenarios are pretty well defined. I will review them with the client before we go into court so that we are prepared. These charges at the municipal court level are more readily plea bargained if the defendant gets his or her driving privilege restored before the pending charge is resolved. Otherwise, you might as well go to trial, because minimum and maximum penalties are identical. While there is a greater apparent range of jail penalties for indictable charges (6-18 months), parole eligibility will make the difference less important in practical terms.
Despite the lack of any downside risk associated with a trial versus a plea, most cases resolve with a guilty plea–perhaps to avoid additional penalties on other related charges.
Can Someone Avoid Jail for Driving on a Suspended License?
Jail is mandatory where a person is charged with a second or subsequent offense. Sometimes, a person can avoid or reduce jail time by seeking post-conviction relief [“PCR”] on the prior conviction if the person did not have an attorney represent them on that prior conviction. But PCR requires individualized investigation not only into the present offense but also into the prior offense. Among the questions we may ask: Was there a guilty plea or trial? How did the judge determine the factual basis for the conviction? Did the evidence support all of the elements of the offense? Was the defendant adequately advised about their constitutional rights? Was there any threat or coercion used in obtaining the conviction?
How Can an Attorney Get the Best Possible Resolution on a Driving While Suspended Case?
To get the best results, an attorney must be vigilant for the client, advising the client of the risks and rewards associated with a particular strategy. Getting a good plea deal may arise from unexpected opportunities. It is often said, a good lawyer knows the law, and a great lawyer knows the judge. There may be something to that. An attorney should know who the players are to see what the options will be for the client. Some prosecutors are more liberal than others–same with judges. Related charges may provide bargaining chips in plea negotiations.
Additional Information on Driving with a Suspended License in New Jersey
The way the penalty structures for this driving while revoked business is very similar to that for a DWI in our state. There are very limited ranges of minimums and maximums, and no differences with stand-alone driving while suspended or revoked charges. While most lawyers tend to have their clients plead guilty, I would not. There is no reason to plead guilty. The case might as well go to trial and in hopes for a good outcome.
For more information on Driving with a Suspended or Revoked License, get a free initial consultation by calling (732) 218-9090 today.
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