DUI Legal Process in New Jersey
Arraignment: This is your first court appearance following your DUI arrest. If you have legal counsel prior to the initial court date, that initial date may usually be waived and the case will be scheduled for a pretrial conference. Otherwise, your presence at the arraignment is mandatory. At the arraignment, you will go before the court and the judge will formally read the charges being brought against you. You will be asked to enter a plea of “guilty” or ‘not guilty”. If you plead “guilty”, a sentence will be imposed. If instead you plead “not guilty”, your case will be rescheduled for a pretrial. Discovery should be obtained by your attorney before the next pretrial conference date.
Pretrial conference: A pretrial conference provides the opportunity to speak with the officer, prosecutor, and judge in an attempt to resolve the case. This hearing usually occurs within thirty days of your initial court date. Any issues with discovery and scheduling are usually dealt with at this state.
Motion Hearings: If your attorney wishes to file motions to resolve issues prior to trial, he/she will file a motion. The most common type of motion filed in a DUI case is a motion to suppress evidence such as chemical test results or statements. Once a motion is filed with the court, a hearing will take place. Expert testimony may be heard and the defense will have an opportunity to cross-examine the police officers involved in the case. If the motion to suppress is granted, the evidence will not be admissible at trial.
Trial: You do not have a right to a jury trial in New Jersey for a DUI conviction (unless you are charged with a felony related DUI, such as a vehicular homicide.) Instead, a bench trial will be held before a Municipal Court Judge. The judge will act as both the judge and the jury, determining issues of law and issues of fact. If the judge finds you guilty, a sentence will be imposed. If you are found not guilty, the charges against you will be dismissed.
Appeal: If you are found guilty, you will have twenty days to request an appeal to a higher court. A Superior Judge will preside over the appeal and will review the trial transcripts and evidence used in the prior trial proceeding. If your guilty verdict is sustained, you may request another appeal from the Appellate Division. Appeals must be made within forty-five days. At the Appellate Division, a multi-judge panel will preside over your case.
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