Post-Conviction Relief in DUI Cases

Man with drink and keys getting in a car.

In New Jersey, a conviction for driving while intoxicated is serious. No matter where you live, how old you are, or your current circumstances, charges for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol can carry life-changing consequences. Drivers are often arrested for DUI/DWI, subsequently charged, and then can be found guilty after trial or can plead guilty to the charges, resulting in a conviction.

If you have recently been convicted of DWI it may feel hopeless and like you have no other options. However, that is where we, at the law firm of Edward M. Janzekovich come in. In certain circumstances, you may actually be able to get some relief from your drunk driving conviction, even if the trial is over or if you have already plead guilty. As a trained and experienced DUI/DWI attorney, Edward M. Janzekovich is well-versed in the area of Post-Conviction Relief and may be able to help you.

What is Post-Conviction Relief?

An application for post-conviction relief (PCR) is an attempt by a driver who has been convicted for DUI/DWI to ask the court to have that conviction erased. This generally returns a defendant to his/her respective pre-conviction position in the eyes of the court. There are few applications that can be made in municipal court that have as much usefulness in the defense of a drunk driving case as an application for PCR. Frequently, a PCR application is the only possible way of saving a defendant from a long jail term or the loss of driving privileges that may last for decades.

When are Applications for Post-Conviction Relief Made?

Generally speaking, PCR applications in drunk driving cases arise in two types of cases. First, when a defendant has been charged with a drunk driving offense that constitutes a second or third offense for sentencing purposes, a successful PCR application may permit the sentencing judge to ignore one of the defendant’s prior offense. This means that a third-time offender may be sentenced as only a second-time offender and a second-time offender may be sentenced as a first-time offender. The difference in sentencing can extremely important under the law, as subsequent offenses carry much harsher penalties.

The second type of case where a PCR application is helpful occurs when the defendant has been charged with driving on the revoked list in violation of N.J.S.A. 39:3-40. Typically, when the underlying reason for a defendant’s license suspension stems from a drunk driving or refusal to take a breathalyzer test conviction, he or she is subject to enhanced penalties like additional license suspension and a mandatory jail term. A defendant facing such consequences can use a PCR application in an effort to vacate the underlying drunk driving conviction, and therefore avoid those additional sentencing enhancements.

Additionally, an application for PCR can also be used when trying to re-license a defendant who cannot afford to pay the motor vehicle surcharges required by a DUI/DWI conviction. A defendant who can successfully vacate a drunk driving conviction through a PCR application will be excused from paying those surcharges to the Motor Vehicle Commission.

How to File an Application for Post-Conviction Relief

The rules for filing an application for PCR can be extremely confusing. For that reason, we always advise that you contact an experienced drunk driving lawyer as soon as you can if you or a loved one has been arrested, charged, or convicted of DUI/DWI. An attorney will know if there are grounds for filing a PCR application in your case or if there are other options that can be used to appeal your case first.

Furthermore, there are strict time limitations and procedural requirements that must be followed in order to have a chance at having a PCR application granted. Typically, an application for post-conviction relief must be filed within five years after the entry of judgment of conviction or the imposition of the defendant’s sentence, although the five-year deadline can be relaxed in two circumstances. First, when the application is made based upon the assertion that the defendant’s sentence was illegal. In this scenario, there is no deadline for when you can file a PCR application. Second, if the defendant can show that the reason he/she did not file the application within the five-year deadline was based on excusable neglect (things like if the defendant was not represented at trial or was unaware of his/her rights at trial) then the court can still hear the application.

New Jersey DUI/DWI Attorney Edward M. Janzekovich Can Help Even if You Have Already Been Convicted

If you have been charged or convicted of DWI/DUI, refusal to submit to a breath test, or driving with a restricted license, you could be facing serious penalties – jail time, heavy fines, and loss of license – that can seriously affect your ability to care and provide for yourself or your loved ones. Whether you have just been arrested or if you have already plead guilty, it is extremely important to contact an experienced attorney who can explain what rights you have. A good 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 in Ocean County, Monmouth County, Mercer County, Middlesex County, Union County and Somerset County.