New Jersey Supreme Court Addresses Stays of Driver’s License Suspensions in DWI Appeals

walking manA conviction for driving while intoxicated (DWI) in New Jersey results in a mandatory driver’s license suspension. A defendant has the right to appeal a conviction in municipal court, first to the Law Division and then to the Appellate Division. Courts have the authority to grant a stay of the driver’s license suspension pending the appeal. The New Jersey Supreme Court recently ruled on a DWI defendant’s challenge to the standards used by a lower court regarding his request for a stay. The court’s ruling in State v. Robertson finds that DWI defendants are presumed eligible for a stay when they request a trial de novo from the Law Division.

For a first-time DWI offense, when a defendant’s blood alcohol content (BAC) is at least 0.08 percent but less than 0.10 percent, the DWI statute mandates a three-month period of license suspension. If a defendant charged with their first offense had a BAC of 0.10 percent or higher, the court may set the length of the suspension between seven months and one year. A second DWI conviction results in two years of license suspension. The suspension period for a third or subsequent offense is 10 years.

Rule 7:13-2 of the New Jersey Rules of Court allows municipal judges to stay “a sentence or a portion of a sentence” while a defendant prepares an appeal. Higher courts may have the authority to grant stays under Rule 3:23-5. The New Jersey Supreme Court identified a three-part test for determining whether to grant a stay in 1982 in Crowe v. De Gioia. A defendant must establish that (1) the denial of a stay would cause “irreparable harm,” (2) the request “rests on settled law,” and (3) “greater harm would occur if a stay is not granted than if it were.”

The defendant in Robertson was convicted of first-time DWI with a BAC of 0.10 percent or higher. The municipal judge ordered the minimum license suspension of seven months but agreed to stay the suspension for 20 days while the defendant prepared an appeal. The defendant raised several discovery-related issues on appeal. The Law Division rejected the defendant’s claims but granted a 10-day stay over the state’s objection.

The Appellate Division, in a 2014 opinion, also rejected the defendant’s discovery claims. It addressed the stay requests by applying the Crowe test and instructing trial courts to issue “adequate findings of fact and conclusions of law” when granting stays. The defendant appealed to the state supreme court on the sole question of “the appropriate standards for a stay of judgment in a DWI case.”

The New Jersey Supreme Court held that the Crowe test should not apply to DWI verdicts from municipal courts or the Law Division, stating that it is “not a good fit.” Instead, defendants appealing from municipal court are “presumptively eligible for a stay of a driver’s license suspension.” To overcome this presumption, the state must demonstrate that a stay “would present a serious threat to the safety of any person or the community.”

For over 20 years, DWI attorney Evan Levow has represented people charged with alleged offenses in New Jersey courts. He can help you understand your rights under the law and advocate for your interests both in and out of court. Contact us online or at (877) 593-1717 today to schedule a free and confidential consultation to see how we can help you.

More Blog Posts:

New Jersey Legislature Passes Bill Affecting Transit Engineers With DWI-Related License Suspensions, New Jersey DWI Attorney Blog, October 2, 2016

Consequences of DWI Conviction in New Jersey Extend Beyond License Suspension, Could Include Loss of Employment Benefits, New Jersey DWI Attorney Blog, April 19, 2016

Defendant Appeals Conviction for Driving While License Suspended to Avoid Jail, New Jersey DWI Attorney Blog, February 1, 2016

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