New Jersey Municipal Court Defendant Successful on Appeal After Sentenced to Jail and License Suspension for Careless Driving
In this particular case, the municipal court judge sentenced the defendant to a suspension of driving privileges for ninety days, fines and costs totaling $241, and a fifteen-day jail term. After reviewing the facts of the case, however, the Appellate Division reversed the decision and remanded the case for re-sentencing. The Defendant's guilty plea arose out of a motor vehicle accident. She was stopped at a red light and when the light turned green, she made a left turn and unbeknownst to her hit a pedestrian, which ultimately cause the pedestrian's death. Defendant voluntarily submitted to a blood test, which revealed she was not using intoxicating substances. Defendant also voluntarily produced her cellular phone records, which did not reveal that she was using her cell phone at the time of the accident. There was no evidence defendant intentionally struck the victim or had fallen asleep while driving. There was also no credible evidence defendant had run the traffic signal, exceeded the speed limit, or had acted recklessly. As a result, the State charged defendant with careless driving, to which she entered a plea of guilty. The Appellate Division, applying the principles of set forth by the New Jersey Supreme Court in State v. Moran, stated that municipal court and Law Division judges should consider the following factors in determining whether to impose a license suspension, and, if suspension is warranted, the length of the suspension:
1. The nature and circumstances of the defendant's conduct, including whether the conduct posed a high risk of danger to the public or caused physical harm or property damage;
2. The defendant's driving record, including the defendant's age and length of time as a licensed driver, and the number, seriousness, and frequency of prior infractions;
3. Whether the defendant was infraction-free for a substantial period before the most recent violation or whether the nature and extent of the defendant's driving record indicates that there is a substantial risk that he or she will commit another violation;
4. Whether the character and attitude of the defendant indicate that he or she is likely or unlikely to commit another violation; whether the defendant's conduct was the result of circumstances unlikely to recur;
5. whether a license suspension would cause excessive hardship to the defendant and/or defendants; and
6. The need for personal deterrence; as well as;
7. Any other relevant factor clearly identified by the court may be considered as well.
The Court also reaffirmed that these principles should also be applied when determining whether to impose a custodial sentence ant that it is not necessarily the number of factors that apply but the weight to be attributed to a factor or factors. The Court went on to find that in this case there were no aggravating factors on the record and remanded the case back to the trial court for re-sentencing. The Appellate Division stated that on re-sentencing, if the Law Division judge considers imposing a custodial sentence, the starting point must be whether there were any aggravating circumstances. If you or a loved one needs strong representation to defend against a DWI or Refusal in New Jersey, contact the municipal court defense lawyers at DeMichele & DeMichele today. We are experienced DWI attorneys who are ready to defend the charges against you. Contact us now for your confidential and free initial consultation. You can also reach us by telephone (856) 546-1350. Don't just plead guilty and risk your driving privilege or driving record.