New Jersey DWI Attorney John Menzel

What To Expect After Pleading Not Guilty In A DWI Case

What To Expect After Pleading Not Guilty In A DWI Case Lawyer, Asbury Park City

In this article, you can discover:

  • The plea-bargaining process and restrictions for DWI cases in New Jersey.
  • The differences between motions to suppress and motions to exclude evidence in DWI cases.
  • When and under what circumstances a prosecutor might offer a plea deal in a DWI case.

What Happens After I Enter a Plea of Not Guilty in My New Jersey DWI Case?

The rules concerning plea bargaining have changed as of February 23, 2024. Before that date, plea bargaining DWI and breath test refusal cases was prohibited with very limited exceptions. Prosecutors and defense attorneys faced significant ethical sanctions, including suspension to their license to practice law, if they entered into such plea bargains. Now, in deference to amendments by our state legislature to N.J.S.A. 39:4-50, the DWI statute, and N.J.S.A. 39:4-50.4a, the breath test refusal statute, that became effective for offenses occurring on or after February 19, 2024, New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner withdrew the plea-bargaining prohibition as a matter of “comity” between the judicial and legislative branches of government.

At What Point Will the Prosecutor Make a Plea Offer?

A prosecutor may offer a plea bargain after reviewing the evidence and determining whether there is a defect in the foundation. Most municipal prosecutors in New Jersey are part-time prosecutors and may not have a significant financial incentive to conduct trials. Thus, if a defendant can present a valid claim that a foundational defect exists, the prosecutor may be willing to concede the defect just to avoid a trial. In such cases, the defendant may plead guilty to a lesser charge, like reckless driving, which is much less severe compared to a DWI charge.

However, supporting the decision to offer a plea deal with facts in the record is essential. This involves consulting with the police officer, who is the state’s witness, and having them make a statement confirming the existence of the defect. This streamlines the legal process.

What Factor Come into Play When Plea Bargaining?

Aside from the strength of the evidence, New Jersey’s Attorney General suggested other factors prosecutors could consider when New Jersey was in the process of decriminalizing marijuana possession. These factors included:

  • Age and prior criminal record
  • Nature and circumstances of the offense and the arrest
  • Adverse employment or military enlistment consequences
  • Adverse immigration consequences
  • Adverse educational consequences
  • Adverse housing and other government benefit consequences
  • Adverse familial consequences

Other factors, limited only by the imagination of the defense attorney, may also come into play.

Why Would Prosecutors Plea Bargain?

If defense attorneys tried every case instead of seeking plea bargains or alternative resolutions to trials, the legal system would likely become overwhelmed. Currently, only about 1% of all DWI cases go to trial. That percentage should be higher for an attorney concentrating his or her practice in DWI defense—say, 20-25%. For courts and prosecutors, the key is to balance the rights of the accused and maintaining the efficiency of the legal system.

In conclusion, while plea deals in DWI cases are now permitted in New Jersey, prosecutors and defense attorneys must proceed with caution. A prosecutor may offer a plea deal after reviewing the evidence and determining that a foundational defect exists. A defense attorney may present other factors to persuade a prosecutor that some measure of leniency or some alternative to the consequences of a DWI conviction are appropriate, given the defendant’s particular circumstances.

However, the decision to offer a plea deal must be supported by facts and other well-founded considerations on the record, usually in consultation with the police officer involved in the case. Ultimately, the decision to accept a plea offer or to go to trial belongs to the defendant—not the defense attorney, not the police officer, not the prosecutor, and not the judge.

John Menzel, J.D.

John Menzel, J.D.: Dedicated DWI Defense in New Jersey. With over 30 years of experience, committed to protecting your license, your freedom, and your reputation. Let's work together to beat that charge.

Request a Consultation Session (732) 218-9090

What Is a Motion to Suppress Evidence in a DWI Case?

A motion to suppress evidence in a DWI case concerns constitutional issues under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article One, Paragraph Seven, of the New Jersey state constitution. These provisions protect individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures and require a warrant for most searches and seizures. However, the vast majority of DWI cases involve warrantless motor vehicle stops and warrantless arrests, which are presumed invalid under the law. While this presumption favors defendants in theory, it is a presumption the State can easily overcome in most cases.

Motions to suppress are preliminary questions, and the key factor is reasonableness. The state has the burden of establishing the reasonableness of the stop, the reasonableness of having someone get out of their car, and probable cause to believe that person may have been operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs to justify the arrest. Despite the presumption of invalidity, it is relatively easy for the state to overcome these burdens, as the questions are not about guilt or innocence but rather the reasonableness of the officer’s actions. Judges give police officer much leeway on these questions because society wants to encourage police officers to uphold the law.

It is important to distinguish between motions to suppress and motions to exclude evidence, as they involve different legal questions, different burdens of proof, and different procedural requirements. Motions to suppress involve constitutional questions of reasonableness, while motions to exclude typically involve questions about whether there’s enough foundation to justify the admission of evidence. In considering these motions, judges use a standard of proof known as a preponderance of the evidence–i.e., more likely than not. But there are exceptions. For example, questions concerning the admission of breath or blood test results must meet a higher burden called “clear and convincing”–evidence so clear, direct, and weighty as to cause the trier of factor to come to a conclusion about the matter at issue without hesitation. For other questions concerning consent and confessions, prosecutors must present proof “beyond a reasonable doubt”–the highest burden in our law and the same one that applies at trial.

Sometimes, the outcome of a case depends on the outcome of these pretrial questions. Often, defendants will plead guilty if the determination of pretrial questions goes against them. Depending on the nature of the question, different requirements apply when appealing to a higher court. Constitutional questions involving the validity of a seizure–from the motor vehicle stop to the arrest–are automatically preserved for appeal. Other questions involving things like the admissibility of breath test results or confessions must be specifically preserved for appeal on the record. Of course, if a case goes to trial, all questions are automatically preserved. There are also special rules if either party want to appeal before a trial.

For more information on Pleading Not Guilty In A New Jersey DWI Case, 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.

John Menzel, J.D.: Dedicated DWI Defense in New Jersey. With over 30 years of experience, committed to protecting your license, your freedom, and your reputation. Let's work together to beat that charge.

Request a Consultation Session (732) 218-9090