How Does a New Jersey DWI Affect Defendants from Other States?
The Non-Resident Violator Compact requires states to report DWIs, vehicular assaults, vehicular homicides, and other serious traffic violations to states that are members of the compact. Most states are members, but even states that are not, like Tennessee, still subscribe to the Motor Vehicle Registry. The Motor Vehicle Registry is a database that allows every state to report whether a driver’s privilege is revoked in their state. Every state checks that registry. States who are members of the compact have the option of treating the offense as if it occurred within their home state or within the reporting state. New Jersey has treated offenses as though they had occurred in New Jersey. If another state were to treat a DWI as a first offense, when, in fact, it is not, New Jersey will impose much more severe second or subsequent offense penalties.
How New Jersey deals with driving privilege revocations imposed by other states in light of amendments to New Jersey DWI penalties enacted as of December 1, 2019, remains to be seen. We are waiting to get our first cases in to see how the Motor Vehicle Commission will handle that.
Can an Officer Confiscate an Out-Of-State Driver’s License?
New Jersey law specifically prohibits an officer or a court from taking a driver’s license issued by another state. In New Jersey, the driver retains all of their documents, including their driver’s license after an arrest. In some states, the privilege is revoked immediately, subject to reinstatement by the administrative hearing. But in New Jersey, there are no consequences unless and until there is a conviction. The only hold a court has on a person charged with DWI is that the person is required to appear in court when notified to do so.
Do I Have to Be Present During All DWI Proceedings If I Am from Out-of-State?
The court has discretion to require your appearance in court proceedings or to permit you to waive it by way of having an attorney. Most courts will permit a waiver, unless there is going to be a pretrial hearing involving testimony or a trial. In those cases, you would have to appear in person.
Since COVID-19, most courts have adopted a virtual platform like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or WebEx to hold sessions, which has made appearing in court a lot more convenient since there is no travel involved. Virtual court only requires you to have some competence with a computer so that you can accept the link sent by the court or your attorney. Courts are more liberal in the age of virtual appearances in permitting defendants to waive their actual appearance. But cases are being heard in person when testimony needs to be taken. I have had eight official in person court appearances to date–two involving testimony, five involving plea agreements, and one for final sentencing. Others are coming up, but in-person court appearances are much less frequent than they used to be.
Will a DWI in New Jersey Affect My Home State Driving Privileges?
A DWI conviction in New Jersey can affect your home state driving privileges. For example, in Pennsylvania, there is almost no impact at all for a first DWI conviction. In other states, you can face a greater revocation than you would in New Jersey. If you are licensed in another state, it’s always a good idea not only to hire an attorney here in New Jersey, but to also consult with an attorney from your home state. That home state attorney can advise you of the reciprocal impact that a DWI conviction in New Jersey might have. Another thing to keep in mind is that you may receive a revocation in New Jersey, but that will not necessarily follow you to your home state until your home state’s motor vehicle commission or division of motor vehicles notifies you of their action in revoking your driving privilege. You may have rights in your home state for administrative review of that determination. Therefore, you should not only hire a lawyer in New Jersey to defend the charge in New Jersey, but consult with a lawyer from your home state to understand the reciprocal impact a New Jersey conviction would have in your home state.
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