A person convicted of driving while intoxicated (DWI) in New Jersey can file a petition for post-conviction relief (PCR). If successful, this will result in the court reopening the case. Since DWI is a motor vehicle offense instead of a criminal offense under New Jersey law, a petition for PCR is filed in the municipal court that originally heard the case. A PCR petition in a criminal case is filed in the Superior Court, Law Division. The New Jersey Appellate Division recently ruled on an appeal of a denial of PCR in a case involving criminal driving while license suspended (DWLS), which is a charge that can follow a DWI conviction. The court vacated the Law Division’s ruling and sent it back for an evidentiary hearing.
New Jersey DWI convictions result in license suspension, with the length of the suspension depending on several factors. A person with no prior DWI convictions in the past ten years, and whose blood alcohol content was less than 0.10 percent, will receive the shortest period of license suspension, equal to the length of time needed for the person to install an ignition interlock device in their car. The longest license suspension period, eight years, comes with a third DWI conviction within the span of a decade.
In most cases, DWLS is a motor vehicle offense. Penalties may include a fine, a brief jail sentence, revocation of one’s motor vehicle registration, and an extension of the driver’s license suspension. Criminal DWLS occurs when a person drives during a period of license suspension that is the result of:
– A first DWI conviction, and the person has a prior DWLS conviction; or
– A second or subsequent DWI conviction.
A conviction of criminal DWLS carries a mandatory jail sentence of 180 days.