Speedy Trial Issues in New Jersey DWI Cases

New Jersey DWI cases are subject to the sixty day guideline for case resolution in the New Jersey Municipal Court system. However, it is extremely difficult, if not unlikely to resolve a contested DWI in that amount of time.

The guideline is just that — a guideline. It is not a requirement, and courts are supposed to be fairly liberal in their interpretation of the rule. Some courts are very strict and press the case forward to the detriment of the State or the defendant, but this is rare, as the courts understand that the cases are supposed to be decided on their merits rather than a calendar. However, if the 60 days have passed and there is an unwarranted delay, the court should move the case forward. In all circumstances, the defendant’s constitutional rights must always be considered and protected.

Once discovery (police records, video, etc.) has been requested, it must be provided on an expeditious basis. Often, while some discovery is provided, not everything that is requested or required is given. In that situation, one of the primary ways to enforce defendant’s rights is to file a Motion to Compel Discovery. Once the court enters an order compelling the State to provide discovery by a date certain, if the material is not provided by that date, a Motion to Dismiss for failure to supply the court ordered discovery should be filed.

It is also critical to assert your right to a speedy trial at the beginning of your case. If the State or the court does not move your case in a timely fashion, you can file a Motion to Dismiss based on speedy trial grounds.

The constitutional standard for a speedy trial was established by the United States Supreme Court in a case called Barker v. Wingo (1972), and applied by our New Jersey Supreme Court in State v. Szima (1976).

In Barker, the Court set forth a “balancing test … in which the conduct of both the prosecution and the defendant are weighed” to aid in determining when a defendant’s right to a speedy trial under the Sixth Amendment has been violated. The Court identified four factors that should be examined:

  • length of delay
  • the reason for the delay
  • the defendant’s assertion of his right
  • and prejudice to the defendant

Dismissals on speedy trial are not very common, but they can occur when properly set up through aggressive representation by a qualified New Jersey DWI trial lawyer.