There are numerous direct and collateral consequences associated with a conviction for Operating Under the Influence of Liquor or Drugs (N.J.S.A. 39:4-50), Refusal to Submit to Chemical Test Penalties (N.J.S.A. 39:4-50.4a), and Consent to Take Samples of Breath Record (N.J.S.A. 39:4-50.2) in the municipal courts of New Jersey. The direct consequences of a DUI and/or Refusal offense are the penalties which are imposed by the court, while the collateral consequences are the effects of having that offense on your driving history record. Examples of direct consequences associated with a DUI offense include jail up to 180 days, forfeiture of driver's license up to 8 years, ignition interlock device installation up to 4 years, fine up to $1,000.00, counseling requirements of the intoxicated driver's resource center (IDRC), and community service. Examples of collateral consequences include immigration problems (if you are not a citizen of the United States, a conviction may result in your removal from the United States and/or stop you from being able to legally enter or re-enter the United States and you have the right to seek individualized advice from an attorney about the effect your guilty plea will have on your immigration status), work-related problems, international travel restrictions (certain countries deny entry to travelers with DUI convictions), commercial driver's license (CDL) issues, auto insurance problems, motor vehicle violations surcharges system assessment of $1,000.00 per year for 3 years for the 1st and 2nd offenses; and $1,500.00 per year for 3 years for 3rd or subsequent offenses (N.J.S.A. 17:29A-35), 9 automobile insurance eligibility points (N.J.S.A. 17:33B-14, N.J.A.C. 11:3-34.5 Appendix), prohibition from acquiring vanity (i.e. personalized) license plates for 10 years (N.J.A.C. 13:20-34.4), and loss of right to sue with no cause of action for recovery of economic or non-economic loss sustained as a result of an accident (N.J.S.A. 39:6A-4.5(b)).
The above information is a brief overview of the potential consequences associated with a DUI and/or Refusal matter in the municipal court. You should contact an experienced DUI defense attorney who will explain all of your options based upon the specific circumstances of your case and work hard to reduce or avoid the potential negative consequences.
Post-Conviction Relief (PCR) involves the filing of a petition with a municipal court in order to correct an injustice (Court Rule 7:10-2). Post-conviction means after a judgment of conviction and sentence, which occurs after a trial or guilty plea. A petition for PCR challenges a judgment of conviction and sentence that was previously imposed by the same court. The PCR process is a different and separate process from the appeal process. A petition for PCR is not a substitute for an appeal. The appellate process seeks a review by a higher court, whereas the PCR process occurs in the same municipal court as the proceedings which gave rise to the conviction. Generally, a PCR petition alleges a denial of constitutional rights, there was no factual basis provided to the Court in order to support the plea, ineffective assistance of counsel, an illegal sentence was imposed, a lack of jurisdiction, or most commonly, the petition seeks to obtain relief from an enhanced custodial term based on a uncounseled prior conviction. In some circumstances, there are also motions that may be filed on a post-conviction basis, such as a motion for a new trial due to fraud, lack of jurisdiction, or newly discovered evidence (Court Rule 7:10-1) and/or a motion to withdraw or vacate a guilty plea in order to correct a manifest injustice (Court Rule 7:6-2). Importantly, there are specific time limitations and restrictions associated with the filing of certain types of petitions or motions.
PCR is a very important tool utilized by experienced defense attorneys in order reduce potential direct and collateral consequences for clients. Specifically, when clients are facing a 3rd DUI offense, skilled DUI lawyers will immediately investigate the prior DUI matters in order to determine whether the prior offenses can be challenged on a PCR basis. In the event a PCR petition is successful in connection with a prior DUI offense, then the prior uncounseled conviction may not be used to enhance the jail sentence associated with a 3rd offense. Accordingly, the client may not be subject to the mandatory jail term of 180 days. In certain circumstances, the client may not be subjected to any jail sentence at all.
The above information is a brief overview of PCR in the municipal court. You should contact an experienced defense attorney who will explain all of your options based upon the specific circumstances of your case and work hard to reduce or avoid the potential penalties.
A defense lawyer plays a critical role in the justice system, namely representing someone who is suspected or accused of committing a crime or offense. The defense lawyer's job is to protect the rights of a suspect or defendant by providing effective legal assistance and advice to their clients. Every suspect or defendant has the constitutional right to remain silent and cannot be forced to answer any questions or make any statements. The only person that a suspect or defendant should speak to is their defense lawyer since everything they discuss privately is privileged and confidential. Often times, the only person that a suspect or defendant can trust is their defense lawyer. A defense lawyer is the only person on their side in the justice system. A defense lawyer is the only party in a criminal case who has the duty and responsibility of balancing the scales of justice for the accused. A defense lawyer understands that it is the government's burden or job to prove that the defendant violated each and every element the law that they are accused of violating beyond a reasonable doubt. Therefore, a defense lawyer never has to prove a client's innocence. A common misconception still exists that a defense lawyer's job it to prove that the client did not commit the crime or offense. That is not the job of a defense lawyer. Many criminal laws and traffic laws have numerous elements that the government is required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. A defense lawyer protects the rights of their clients by challenging the government's evidence through skilled methods, such as presenting legal arguments and questioning witnesses in Court in order to show the existence of reasonable doubt. Therefore, defendants who have a defense lawyer do not have to give up their important constitutional right to remain silent in order to challenge the government's case by presenting an argument or defense in Court themselves.
The above information is a brief overview of the role of a defense attorney. You should contact an experienced defense attorney who will explain all of your options based upon the specific circumstances of your case and work hard to reduce or avoid the potential penalties.
Unfortunately, there appears to be a popular misconception and common misunderstanding about the administration of the penalty points system associated with traffic tickets and traffic violations. You have probably heard someone say "I know that the points transfer" in a very matter of fact way. However, did you know that the point system does not operate according to such a simple and false principle?
Typically, the penalty point system is administered by the State's department of motor vehicles (i.e. the DMV; not the Courts). Each State has different laws and regulations that govern the assessment of points. As a result, the point system operates differently in each State. For example, the State of New York does not record out of state moving traffic violations for regular drivers (i.e. non-commercial drivers), except if the violations occur in Ontario, Canada and Quebec, Canada. However, the State of New Jersey generally imposes 2 points for each out of state moving traffic violation. Therefore, the phrase "points transfer" is not technically accurate. In fact, the proper explanation is that the record (i.e. the result; not the points) of certain violations may be reported and transferred from one State to another, but the total number of penalty points, if any, depends upon the State in which you have a driver's license (i.e. your home State).
For example, a driver with a regular, non-commercial, NY driver's license who pleads guilty or is found guilty of an Improper Passing violation in NJ, which carries 4 points in NJ, will not be assessed any points by the NY DMV when the violation is reported to NY because NY does not record, acknowledge, or accept the transfer. However, please note that the NJ MVC imposes financial surcharges upon drivers who accumules of 6 or more points and upon drivers who plead guilty or are found guilty of certain violations. In addition, the NJ MVC may suspend or revoke a driver's license or driving privileges in NJ based upon their record of violations and/or accumulation of penalty points.
Another example is a driver with a NJ driver's license who pleads guilty or is found guilty of a Speeding violation in NY, which carries 6 points in NY, will only be assessed with 2 points by the NJ MVC when the violation is reported to NJ. However, please note that the driver in this example will likely face significant penalties in NY for such a violation and the NY DMV Driver Responsibility Assessment financial penalty. In addition, the NY DMV may suspend or revoke a driver's license or driving privileges in NY based upon their record of violations and/or accumulation of penalty points.
Please be aware that the total point assessment and other penalties can be greater in your home State as opposed to the State in which you received the ticket for the alleged violation.
The above information is a brief overview of point system. You should contact an experienced traffic violation defense attorney who will explain all of your options based upon the specific circumstances of your case and work hard to reduce or avoid the potential penalties.
In almost all cases (except parking tickets), you should hire an experienced defense lawyer for your case in the Municipal Courts of New Jersey. However, if you are unsure, you should at least consult with one about your case. Unfortunately, some people mistakenly believe that it will be more expensive to hire a lawyer as opposed to "just pleading guilty". That belief is completely false. Each town or municipality appoints an experienced lawyer to represent the State's interests and prosecute the cases. Therefore, you should hire your own experienced lawyer to represent you, defend you, and protect your interests. An experienced defense lawyer is a hard-working advocate with in depth knowledge of the law, sharp negotiation skills, and polished litigation skills who has represented and protected the rights of numerous individuals and businesses accused of wrongdoing. Most people are interested in protecting the following three interests, their liberty (i.e. not going to jail), their driver's license (i.e. avoiding points and license suspensions), and their finances (i.e. avoiding high fines, motor vehicle surcharges, and car insurance premium increases). There are legal defenses known by experienced defense lawyers that can be presented in a logical and persuasive manner to the prosecutor and the Court which could drastically improve the outcome of your case. For example, finding procedural mistakes with the breathalyzer test in DWI cases, lack of proper notice in Driving While Suspended cases, and certain exemptions for drivers accused of Driving Without Valid Liability Insurance. Often, a successful outcome of a case will lead to significant financial savings for a client. An experienced defense lawyer knows how to use the law to save his or her client money. For example, certain traffic violations (i.e. Driving While Suspended) carry motor vehicle surcharges (i.e. $750.00) and insurance eligibility points (i.e. 9 points). An experienced defense lawyer who is able to persuade the prosecutor to change or amend the original offense to another violation that does not carry those same penalties will end up saving his or her client a lot of money.
The above information is a brief overview of the advantages of retaining a lawyer for a municipal court matter. Certain types of crimes and offenses are handled differently based upon unique facts and circumstances. You should contact an experienced defense attorney who will explain all of your options based upon the specific circumstances of your case and work hard to reduce or avoid the potential penalties.
What is the process and procedure generally followed by the Municipal Courts and Criminal Courts of New Jersey?
If you are accused of a committing a traffic offense in New Jersey, the traffic ticket is either Payable or Non-Payable as indicated on the Complaint-Summons that was issued to you.
If you are accused of committing a traffic offense that is Payable, you have two options. One option is to pay the fine before the date indicated within the Complaint-Summons that was issued to you. This is equivalent to entering a Plea of Guilty and will be recorded as a Conviction. The other option is to contest or challenge the accusations by entering a Plea of Not Guilty and request a Court Date. This should be done prior to the date indicated within the Complaint-Summons that was issued to you. Then, a Notice to Appear will be issued by the Court to inform you of your Court Date. For a brief explanation of what generally happens next, please refer to the description below associated with Non-Payable matters.
If you are accused of committing a traffic offense that is Non-Payable, you must personally appear in Municipal Court to answer the accusations. The Court Date is indicated within the Notice to Appear section of the Complaint-Summons that was issued to you. Your first court appearance is referred to as an Arraignment Hearing or First Appearance. During an Arraignment Hearing, a Judge will generally inform you of your Constitutional Rights, including your Right to be Represented by an Attorney, and verify that you have a copy of the Complaint-Summons, understand the accusations listed on the Complaint-Summons, and understand the potential penalties associated with the accusations. Next, a Judge will typically ask for your plea to the accusations. If you enter a Plea of Guilty, the Judge must be satisfied that the Plea was entered freely and voluntarily with full understanding and waiver of your Constitutional Rights including a Waiver of your Right to be Represented by an Attorney, and an admission to committing the accusations. If you enter a Plea of Not Guilty, the Judge will ask if you are going to hire a Private Attorney, apply for a Public Defender, or represent yourself. The second court appearance is generally referred to as a Pre-Trial Conference. During the Conference, a Judge will generally ask the Prosecution and the Defense if all of the evidence has been exchanged and whether the case is going to resolved with a plea agreement or if the parties are requesting that the case be scheduled for Trial. Depending on the nature and complexity of the case, additional Conferences may be scheduled. If the case is not resolved by plea agreement, then a Trial will be scheduled. The maximum penalty for matters heard in the Municipal Court is 6 months in the County Jail and other significant penalties.
If you are accused of committing a criminal offense in New Jersey, the case is either Indictable or Non-Indictable. Indictable generally means that the accusations are at the Felony level of our criminal code and you have a Constitutional Right to have your case reviewed by a Grand Jury to determine whether an Indictment should be returned and filed with the Court. Non-Indictable generally means that the accusations are at the Quasi-Criminal level of our criminal code and are not the subject matter for Grand Jury review.
Generally, Non-Indictable cases are heard in the Municipal Court. The Court process and procedure is similar to the one associated with Non-Payable matters. As indicated above, the maximum penalty for matters heard in the Municipal Court is 6 months in the County Jail along with other significant direct and collateral consequences.
If you are accused of committing an Indictable crime, you must appear before a Judge for a First Appearance Hearing. During your First Appearance Hearing, a Judge will inform you of your Constitutional Rights, including your Right to be Represented by an Attorney, and verify that you have a copy of the Complaint, understand the accusations listed on the Complaint, and understand the potential penalties associated with the accusations. Next, the Judge will typically ask if you are going to hire a Private Attorney or apply for a Public Defender.
All indictable cases are sent to the County Prosecutor's Office for their review. The County Prosecutor decides whether to file the case with the Superior Court, downgrade and remand the case to the Municipal Court, or dismiss the case. If the case is filed with a Court, a Notice to Appear will be issued by the Court to inform you of where and when to appear.
If the case is filed with the Superior Court, the County Prosecutor has the discretion to schedule the case for a Conference in the Superior Court. If the case is resolved at the Pre-Indictment level by the entry of a Plea of Guilty to an Accusation and/or by entry into the Pre-Trial Intervention Program under an Accusation, the Judge must be satisfied that your decision is made freely and voluntarily with full understanding and waiver of your Constitutional Rights, including a waiver of your Constitutional right to have your case reviewed by a Grand Jury, and in the case of a Plea of Guilty, a waiver of your Constitutional Right to a Trial. This decision is significant because the Accusation becomes the legal equivalent of a formal Indictment and any Plea of Guilty is the legal equivalent of a conviction.
If your case is not resolved Pre-Indictment, the case will be sent to the Grand Jury to determine if sufficient evidence exists to formally accuse you of committing a crime. You also have the right to a Probable Cause Hearing before a Judge in the Superior Court. However, if the Grand Jury decides sufficient evidence exists, an Indictment will be returned and filed with Superior Court listing the formal accusations. The next court appearance in Superior Court is generally referred to as the formal Arraignment Hearing. During an Arraignment Hearing, a Judge will generally inform you of your Constitutional Rights and verify that you have a copy of the Indictment, understand the formal accusations listed in the Indictment, and understand the potential penalties associated with the formal accusations. Next, a Judge will typically ask for your Plea to the accusations in the Indictment. Upon entry of a Plea of Not Guilty, often the Judge will enter an Order listing important dates and deadlines, such as Pre-Trial Conferences, Motion Filing Date, Plea Cut Off Date, and a Trial Date. During the Conferences, a Judge will generally ask if all of the evidence has been exchanged, whether any Motions are going to be filed, and if the case is going to resolved with a plea agreement or if the case should be scheduled for Trial with Jury selection.
The above information is a brief overview of the Court process and procedure. Certain types of crimes and offenses are handled differently based upon unique facts and circumstances. You should contact an experienced defense attorney immediately if you are suspected or accused of committing any offense or crime.
When the Police investigate an accident, crime or offense, they are trained to gather information and evidence against the person the Police believe are responsible or suspected of committing a crime or offense. During this process, the Police attempt to interview witnesses, victims, and interrogate suspects. Therefore, if you are an involved party, either a potential suspect or the accused, the Police will request that you make a statement and answer questions at the scene or at the Police Station. In all circumstances, you should NOT speak with the Police because you have the constitutional right to remain silent and cannot be forced to speak. You should contact a defense attorney immediately.
However, it is very important to note a common misunderstanding of the law and legal rights in New Jersey. The right to remain silent should not be confused with certain obligations that are non-verbal in nature. For example, the law requires all motorists to show three motor vehicle documents (i.e. driver's license, vehicle registration certificate, and vehicle insurance card) and submit to a breath test when requested by the Police.
When you believe that you are innocent, it is human nature to want to convince the Police that you are innocent. You may want to tell the Police your version of what happened and show the Police that you are credible and believable. You may want to persuade the Police not to charge you because you don't want your reputation to be harmed.
However, you have very important constitutional rights as a suspect or the accused, namely the right to remain silent at all times, the right to have an attorney present during any questioning, and the right to refuse to testify during Trial. The Court and/or Jury are required to presume that you are innocent of the crime or offense and cannot use or infer that your silence is any evidence or proof of guilt. The government must prove the case against you beyond a reasonable doubt. These constitutional rights give a suspect or an accused person key advantages over the government and prosecution. If you speak with the Police, you will be giving up all of your advantages in the criminal justice system. In almost every case, it is a devastating mistake to waive your rights and speak with the Police.
If you give up your rights and speak with the Police, you are allowing the Police to ask you any and all questions they want, including some improper questions that the government and prosecution would not be allowed to ask to any witness in Court during a Trial. It is important to know that all Police interrogation interviews are recorded because the prosecution will use the statements as evidence against you at Trial. Your words and/or statements may be misinterpreted, taken out of context, turned around, or twisted in ways that you did not intend.
The above information is a brief overview of the police criminal investigation process. Certain types of crimes and offenses are handled differently based upon unique facts and circumstances. You should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney before speaking with the Police.
A plea bargain is a negotiated settlement of a case in the criminal justice system, either in criminal court or in traffic court. Unfortunately, the phrase "plea bargain" is often referred to as "plea deal" and portrayed by the news media in a derogatory manner. However, the proper legal terminology is a "plea agreement".
It is a statistical fact that most cases are resolved by plea agreements. There are many reasons why plea agreements occur and why settlements are generally encouraged by the judicial system.
Plea agreements happen because it is often in the best interest of our society and the parties or litigants (i.e. the government and the defendant), along with other involved individuals (i.e. the victims, potential witnesses, and potential jurors). In general, a defendant is offered a reduced offense and/or reduced penalty in exchange for pleading guilty and waiving their Constitutional right to have a Trial (i.e. giving up their right to force the government to present evidence and witnesses to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt). However, the level of reduction is based upon numerous factors, including the negotiating skills of the defense attorney advocating for their client in order to obtain the most favorable plea agreement. An experienced defense attorney understands how the justice system works and utilizes all available negotiating leverage. In some cases this may involve demonstrating how the prosecution will have difficulty proving the case beyond a reasonable doubt. In other cases it may require demonstrating how and why his/her client is uniquely situated and deserves a break or reduction. Often, law enforcement will overcharge the accused person at the beginning of the case. In those situations, the potential penalties associated with the original accusations are unfair because the facts and circumstances do not warrant such serious consequences. Therefore, the prosecution should be persuaded to use its discretion to reduce, amend, modify and dismiss charges.
Plea agreements and settlements are generally encouraged in our legal system because of public policy, judicial economy, and overall efficiency reasons. If every case went to Trial, it would place unimaginable stress and burden upon our society and economic system. Our court system would have an endless backlog of cases and the lengthy process would violate a defendant's speedy trial rights. As a result, more government employees would have to be hired, appointed or elected. Also, each citizen would be required to serve jury duty on a more frequent and regular basis. Therefore, business and commerce would be negatively impacted and taxes would increase dramatically.
The above information is a brief overview of plea bargaining. Certain types of crimes and offenses are handled differently based upon unique facts and circumstances. You should contact an experienced defense attorney who will explain all of your options based upon the specific circumstances of your case and work hard to maximize your chances of obtaining the most favorable plea agreement.
Vache Edward Bahadurian, Esq.
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Copyright © 2023 Vache Edward Bahadurian, Esq. All Rights Reserved.
Copyright © 2023 Vache Edward Bahadurian, Esq. All Rights Reserved.