When a person is charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI) in New Jersey, they have two main options for how to respond to the state’s charges. They can enter a guilty plea, or they can fight the charges and go to trial. A defendant might plead guilty to DWI for numerous reasons. A guilty plea can be a way of avoiding worse penalties after a trial. Defense attorneys can negotiate with prosecutors in many cases in a process known as “plea bargaining.” Plea agreements often involve a defendant pleading guilty in exchange for a lighter sentence or dismissal of some charges. DWI cases, however, are different. Rules established by the New Jersey Supreme Court limit prosecutor’s ability to enter into plea agreements in cases involving DWI and refusal to submit to breath testing. Read on to learn more about what issues are subject to negotiation with prosecutors in New Jersey DWI cases.
What Is a Plea Agreement?
After a defendant first appears in court on a motor vehicle charge, some time will pass before the court will set the case for trial. Defendants and defense attorneys often use that time to negotiate with prosecutors. This process is somewhat similar to negotiations between opposing attorneys in civil lawsuits, with the goal being to resolve the dispute without going to trial.
A good plea agreement often leaves both sides feeling like they got something, but neither side feeling like they “won.” Prosecutors give up the chance of a guilty verdict, and defendants admit to some part of the state’s charges. In a case involving a reckless driving charge, for example, a defendant might agree to:
– Plead guilty to a lesser offense, like careless driving, in exchange for dismissal of the more serious charge; or
– Plead guilty to the charged offense in exchange for the prosecutor’s recommendation for a lesser sentence.
Plea Agreements in New Jersey DWI and Refusal Cases
In 1990, the New Jersey Supreme Court adopted the Guidelines for Operation of Plea Agreements in the Municipal Courts of New Jersey (the “Guidelines”). Guideline 4, as amended over the years, states that “no plea agreements whatsoever will be allowed” in DWI and refusal cases. The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office issued a set of guidelines for prosecutors in January 2005 that incorporates Guideline 4.
Prosecutors may not agree to dismiss or reduce the penalties for a DWI or refusal charge as part of a plea agreement. An exception applies if a defendant is charged with a second or subsequent DWI and refusal, and both charges arise from the same incident. The prosecutor can recommend dismissal of the refusal charge if the defendant pleads guilty to DWI. This arrangement is not available for a first DWI charge.
However, this is why someone charged with such a serious offense as DWI or Refusal in New Jersey should hire a qualified DWI lawyer to assess the charges and fight the case. If the defense attorney can establish reasons why the prosecutor cannot prove the DWI or Refusal, the State can dismiss DWIs and Refusals. The State can agree to suppress breath test results, which means no loss of license in first offense DWI cases where the reading is 0.15% or above.
Plea Agreements for Offenses Related to DWI
Guideline 4 does not apply to other motor vehicle offenses that often accompany DWI charges, such as reckless driving, careless driving, or driving while in possession of a controlled substance. Prosecutors can agree to reduce or dismiss charges like these in exchange for a guilty plea to DWI or refusal.
Evan Levow Fights and Wins DWI Cases
Mr. Levow has been defending drivers in New Jersey for 30 years. He routinely gets breath and blood test readings suppressed, and gets DWI and Refusal charges dismissed.
If you have been charged with alleged DWI or a related offense in a New Jersey municipal court, a knowledgeable and experienced advocate can guide you through the legal processes and fight for your rights. DWI attorney Evan Levow is available to assist you. Please contact us today online or at (877) 593-1717 to schedule a free and confidential consultation.