Recent New Jersey Supreme Court Decision
The Supreme Court of New Jersey recently decided when a defendant could retain their driving privileges even after conviction for dwi, when a de novo “appeal” is brought in the Superior Court or an appeal from the Superior Court is taken to the Appellate Division.
Second Hearing in Superior Court
The Court determined that a presumption existed allowing the defendant to continue vehicle operation during the pendency of consideration in the Superior Court. The reasoning for this was that every defendant is entitled to a second hearing in the Superior Court after a guilty determination in the Municipal Court. This second hearing, referred to as a “de novo” or “new” hearing involves the same evidence considered by the Municipal Court, with the State continuing to have the burden of proving the defendant’s guilt.
It is important to remember that the defendant benefits from a “presumption” that his driving suspension will be stayed until Superior Court resolution. This means that the State can provide information to the court, to convince it not to allow driving during the period of appeal. Courts are instructed to consider whether defendants pose serious threats to the safety of others, based upon their criminal and driving history, drug and alcohol problems and other factors that would assist the court in assessing the risk of danger to others.
The Supreme Court also held that Judges can impose conditions upon continued operation, such as limiting time of operation, reasons for operation and the need to install an Ignition Interlock Device as a condition of continued operation.
If the appeal is to the Appellate Division after Superior Court consideration, the ability to obtain a stay of suspension becomes much more difficult, as there is no longer a presumption of innocence at this point.