Plea Bargaining in NJ DWI Cases

Plea bargaining is a traditional practice for criminal defense lawyers in attempting to resolve criminal charges for their clients. However, in New Jersey drinking and driving cases this option is not available. All offenses set forth under N.J.S.A. 39:4-50(a), including the offense of permitting the intoxicated operation of a motor vehicle may not be the subject of plea bargaining in municipal court. State v. Hessen, 145 N.J. 441 (1996). The purpose behind the absolute ban on plea bargaining drunk driving cases in municipal court is to preserve “public confidence that a meritorious drunk driving offense will not be bargained away” by the prosecutor. State v. Marsh, 290 N.J. Super. 663 (1996).

Because of this absolute ban on plea bargaining in New Jersey DWI cases, many individuals think that they do not need a lawyer. This is a major error by many individuals charged with a DWI in New Jersey. First, an attorney can challenge the stop for lack of probable cause or reasonable suspicion to believe that the individual is intoxicated. If there is insufficient probable cause for the stop, the DWI charges must be thrown out. Also, the breathalyzer results can be challenged based on the certificate of inspection¬†or the operator. Moreover, even if you do not have defense to the DWI or Refusal, it is imperative that you get the minimum penalties for the charge such as seven months suspended license on a first offense rather than a year. This could have a significant impact on your quality of life for that additional 5 months of your driver’s license suspension.