New Case on License Suspension – Certain Offenses Considered Fourth Degree Crime

DUI stop with cop holding breathalyzer

As every driver should know, it is illegal to drive drunk in New Jersey. The specific law that prohibits driving while intoxicated is N.J.S.A. 39:4-50. In New Jersey, you are also required to submit to a breathalyzer test if you are pulled over and the police officer has a reasonable suspicion to believe that you have been driving drunk. Violating the breathalyzer requirement law is known as Refusal to Take a Breath Test – or just refusal – and it is detailed in N.J.S.A. 39:4-50.2.

If you are convicted under either of these laws, you can be sentenced to several penalties including severe fines, jail time, and loss of driving privileges. When your license is revoked, you are completely prohibited from driving: you cannot drive to work, you cannot drive to school, you cannot drive to the store, you cannot even drive to get medical treatment or attend doctor’s appointments — New Jersey does not allow for any temporary, provisional or “work” licenses.

Under the recent case of State v. Dougherty, which was passed by the Superior Court of New Jersey Appellate Division earlier this month, the Court made it clear that a driver commits a crime of the 4th degree if he or she operates a motor vehicle during a period of license suspension for a second or subsequent violation of the previously mentioned laws. Until this case, it was not clear whether both former violations had to be of the same law – both DWIs or both refusals – or whether they could be different. Dougherty confirms that both former violations do not need to be the same, which could mean even greater penalties for anyone found driving with a suspended license.

State v. Dougherty

In Dougherty, the defendant was arrested and charged with driving with a suspended license. At the time he was pulled over, he had one prior conviction for DUI and one prior conviction for refusal, and his license was still suspended as a result of the refusal.

Based on this, he was convicted of driving with a restricted license under N.J.S.A. 2C:40-26(b), “Operating motor vehicle during period of license suspension,” which makes it a crime of the fourth degree to operate a motor vehicle with a suspended license when the suspension was the result of a second or subsequent conviction for driving while intoxicated or refusal. This is important, because driving with a restricted license based on a first offense is not considered as serious a crime (but will still result in jail time). Since this was the defendant’s second period of license suspension, the law stated that the court was required to impose a mandatory sentence of 180 days and the defendant would not be eligible for parole. This sentence is required and cannot be lessened or bargained against.

A fourth-degree crime is also considered a serious crime under the law – as compared to a traffic offense, misdemeanor, or disorderly persons crime – and will be listed on a person’s permanent record as a violation of a major crime. This could more seriously affect the driver’s future ability to gain employment or apply for certain positions based on the person’s criminal history.

Taken all together, driving on a restricted license as the result of a second DWI/DUI conviction and/or a second refusal conviction could elevate the violation from a quasi-criminal proceeding to a full 4th degree criminal proceeding, including indictment, heightened penalties, and increased jail time. For that reason, if you or anyone you know has been arrested for, charged with, or convicted of drunk driving or refusal, it is important to contact a knowledgeable attorney as soon as possible. A good lawyer will be able to review your case as well as your history and present any applicable defense on your behalf including appealing past convictions.

New Jersey Refusal Attorney Edward M. Janzekovich Is Prepared to Defend Against the Serious Charges You’re Facing

A conviction for refusal or drunk driving can mean serious penalties – jail time, heavy fines, and loss of license at a minimum. Driving with a suspended license can mean even more consequences. If you or someone you know is charged with driving under the influence or refusal, it is important to have a lawyer who knows how to help. A good attorney can make all the difference. To speak with an experienced New Jersey DWI lawyer about your situation, call us at 1-732-257-1137 or contact us online today. We serve clients throughout the state of New Jersey.

New Jersey DWI Attorney Discusses License Suspension Rules When Your Case is Being Appealed

Man Handing a Police Officer his License

If you are arrested and charged for a DUI or DWI, you should consult an attorney as soon as you can. An experienced drunk driving lawyer will be able to review your case, request evidence that may be time sensitive, explain to you the penalties you may be facing, and help fight the charges against you even get the charges dismissed completely.

If you have already been convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, an attorney can still help. Although it may feel like your case is already over, an attorney may still be able to have your sentence changed or have the charges against you dismissed by filing an appeal – especially, if the municipal court committed a miscarriage of justice, meaning it did something wrong or against the rules.

Importantly, one of the most difficult penalties faced by convicted drivers is the loss of driving privileges that can cause you to miss work and not be able to provide for your family or loved ones. While your case is being appealed, an attorney can argue on your behalf so that you do not lose your license, while you are waiting to see if your conviction is overturned.

Loss of Driving Privileges

The first time you are convicted of drunk driving, you can have your license suspended for either 3 months (if your blood alcohol content is between .08% and .09%) or 7 to 12 months (if your blood alcohol content is .10% or greater). If this is the first offense, a judge has a lot of flexibility in deciding how long to suspend a driver’s license, and other factors can increase the punishment, such as if the violation occurred in a school zone or caused an injury. For a second offense, the law requires you to lose your license for 2 years or longer, while you can lose your license for 10 years or more on a third conviction for DUI/DWI.

How Appeals Work

The majority of DUI/DWI convictions occur in Municipal Court. If you are appealing your initial conviction in the Municipal Court, you are asking to have a higher court, the Law Division in your county, review the lower court proceedings to make sure that there is no miscarriage of justice. The Law Division can reverse the conviction or affirm it. If it is affirmed, you may have the opportunity to appeal the case again to the Appellate Division of New Jersey or even the New Jersey Supreme Court.

Postponing License Suspension on Appeal

Last month, the New Jersey Supreme Court affirmed certain guidelines that can help drivers appealing their drunk driving convictions.

Specifically, if you are convicted, the Court allows you to have the period of time you are losing your license suspended while you request to have a higher court review your case.

Postponing, or “staying,” your license suspension does not happen automatically, but if you make an application to the Law Division to stay your license suspension pending your first appeal, the Court should presumptively grant the request. The guidelines, however, provide that you will most likely not be able to stay your period of license suspension if you appeal from the Law Division to the Appellate Division or higher court. If all the higher courts affirm your conviction, you will then be required to carry out the period of license suspension.

The Courts will also look at a number of factors to determine if you are entitled to a stay of your license suspension. The government or prosecutor may argue to the court that you should lose your license immediately if you present a serious threat to the safety of any person or the community. The Court will also look at your entire criminal past and history of motor vehicle offenses, and it may limit your license while the appeal is pending. For instance, the Court may be able to restrict when you drive your car – to or from work only – or require you have an ignition interlock device installed on the vehicle.

Finally, if this is not your first conviction for driving under the influence, the Court may be less likely to grant your request for a stay.

New Jersey Drunk Driving Attorney Edward M. Janzekovich Can Help If You’ve Been Charged or Convicted of DUI/DWI

Losing your license because you have been driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs can be devastating. If you or someone you know is charged for any DUI/DWI crime, it is extremely important to contact an experienced attorney who can explain what rights you have in your specific situation. If you are charged with drunk driving or driving under the influence of any substance in New Jersey, an experienced lawyer can make all the difference. To speak with an experienced New Jersey DWI lawyer about your situation, call us at 732-257-1137 or contact us online today. We serve clients throughout the state of New Jersey.

Courts Find Citizens Can’t Be Charged with Operating a Motor Vehicle During License Suspension for Simply Not Administratively Reinstating Their License

A form from the DMV suspending a driver's license.

If you are a New Jersey resident facing a charge for driving a motor vehicle during license suspension because of a previous DUI / DWI conviction or convictions, the court recently made some important decisions that could affect your case.

On June 6, 2016, in State v. Torres, the Superior Court Appellate Division vacated a judgment of conviction against a defendant for a third degree offense of operating a motor vehicle during a period of license suspension which he received after a multiple driving while intoxicated (DWI) offenses. The individual had been found guilty of DWI before in 2004 and 2006. After the 2006 conviction, his license was suspended for two years. In 2011, after his two-year license suspension ended but before it was officially reinstated by the state, he was stopped by a police officer who did a random check of the license plate and found that it was not registered to the right vehicle. During the traffic stop, the driver explained to the police officer that his license was suspended and that he owned the vehicle, but that the license plates were from a relative’s vehicle. The police officer then confirmed that the driver’s license was suspended and issued him a citation for a motor vehicle violation. After the vehicle stop, the police officer reviewed the driver’s motor vehicle history and then issued a complaint charging the driver with violating N.J.S.A. 2C:40-26(b), which restricts any person from operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license that was received as a result of a DWI / DUI conviction. At trial, the driver was found guilty and sentenced to a minimum of 180 days in county jail and 2 years of probation.

With the help of an attorney, the driver appealed the conviction and argued that he should not have been found guilty because the 2-year period for his license suspension was already finished on the date that he was pulled over, and he only failed to take the administrative steps to get his license reinstated. The Appellate Division agreed.

The court found that the law was “silent as to those driving without reinstatement beyond the court-imposed term of suspension,” and concluded a person cannot be guilty under the law against driving with a suspended license unless he or she is actually driving during the court imposed license suspension period. Therefore, the conviction against the driver in State v. Torres was overturned. In making its decision, the Appellate Division referred to State v. Perry, another case in which a citizen was wrongfully charged with an offense after forgetting to administratively reinstate his license.

If you have previously been convicted of driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol and have had your license suspended, it is important that you do not drive with a suspended license. The penalties for driving during a suspension period are very serious. Nonetheless, if you are pulled over for driving with a suspended license as the result of a past drunk driving conviction, an experienced DUI / DWI lawyer will be able to help you understand your rights and help you present the best defense in your case. Depending on your specific circumstances, an experienced drunk driving attorney may be able to have the charges against you dropped completely.

New Jersey DWI Lawyer Edward M. Janzekovich is Ready to Defend Drivers Facing DUI / DWI Offenses

If you or someone you know is being charged with a DUI / DWI or for driving with a suspended license, an experienced drunk driving lawyer can help you defend your case. To speak with an experienced New Jersey DWI lawyer about your situation, call us at 732-257-1137 or contact us online today. We serve clients in Ocean County, Monmouth County, Mercer County, Middlesex County, Union County and Somerset County.