When you think of a criminal case, you likely think of a defendant and attorneys in a courtroom with witnesses and a jury. Rightfully so, as the jury trial is the pinnacle of our criminal justice system and you have the right to such a trial provided by the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Having a jury of your peers decide your fate in your criminal case works to prevent bias of judges and prosecutors that can lead to wrongful convictions in many cases. Juries are supposed to bring an objective and unbiased perspective to make the criminal process as fair as possible
Unfortunately, people in New Jersey facing one of the most common charges will not be allowed a jury trial under most circumstances. In a recent case, the New Jersey Supreme Court decided that people charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI) by alcohol are not entitled to have a jury trial if they request one.
How Can You be Denied a Jury Trial?
Anyone charged with a crime has the right to a jury trial, however, DUI/DWI is handled in municipal court and is not categorized as a criminal offense under New Jersey law. In addition, the maximum possible jail sentence for a DWI conviction is six months, even with prior convictions on your record. Courts have used this limited jail sentence as justification to deny a jury trial, as there would be less possible harm caused by a biased judge.
However, multiple DWI convictions do have other consequences in addition to jail time that can be very serious and can have a huge impact on your life. For example, for a 4th DWI case, you may face the following potential penalties that may be imposed by the court:
- Ten-year suspension of your driver’s license
- Fine of up to $1000 and thousands more in costs and surcharges
- After getting your license back, installation of an ignition interlock device on your vehicle for two years
Even with these serious penalties, you can still be denied a jury trial in your DWI case. However, the NJ Supreme Court did mention in its ruling that if potential consequences of DWI convictions keep increasing, the right to a jury trial would be necessary.
Call for More Information Today
If you have been arrested or charged with DWI, you need a New Jersey DWI defense attorney on your side. Please call David C. Barry, Attorney at Law at 732-238-8686 for help today.