A prosecution for alleged driving while intoxicated (DWI) in New Jersey usually begins in the municipal court of the city, borough, town, township, or village in which the arrest occurred. A defendant can appeal a DWI conviction for reversible error, abuse of discretion, and other grounds. A July 2015 appellate court decision, State v. Hwang, offers an overview of the appeals process in New Jersey DWI cases.
An appeal from a municipal court order or verdict goes to the New Jersey Superior Court, Law Division in the county where the municipal court is located. From there, it would go to the Superior Court, Appellate Division. At this level of appeal, the court has much less discretion to review the lower courts’ findings of fact. Further appeals go to the New Jersey Supreme Court, and finally the United States Supreme Court.
A Hillsborough Township police officer pulled over the defendant in Hwang in October 2012 after allegedly witnessing her swerve across the median line several times. He testified that she failed several field sobriety tests, refused to comply with his orders, and failed to provide an adequate breath sample for the Alcotest. Prosecutors charged her with DWI, refusal to submit to breath testing, failure to stay in the right lane, and resisting arrest. While the case was pending, the defendant sued the arresting officer, claiming illegal arrest and assault. She later filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the township.