DWI Pre-Trial Issues and the Judge’s Role in “Setting the Tone”

I need to preface this blog by saying that the majority of Judges sitting in Municipal Courts throughout New Jersey are fair, impartial, and level-headed. However, when it comes to DWI offenses and discovery issue, one sometimes wonders if making pre-trial motions seeking orders limiting the time for the production of discovery makes any sense at all. The reason being that it is becoming increasingly more difficult to convince a judge to enforce the Order once it has been entered.

This is contrasted with the DWI defense attorney and defendant who will typically be held to a strict time line as it relates to the preparation of the defendant’s case.

The frustrating aspect of the non-enforcement of pre-trial orders against the State is that the only real remedy for the DWI defendant is to appeal the municipal court’s decision to deny application to enforce the Order. The appeal process is not only time-consuming, but costly to the defendant who must pay legal fees to his DWI attorney. Secondly, it is often the case that the defendant will have to wait until after the municipal court has adjudicated the DWI case before taking the appeal, since the Law Division is not particularly crazy about interlocutory appeals.  This means more time and more money spent.

If the case goes on long enough, and given the right circumstances, the defendant can ask for sanctions in particularly egregious circumstances. But this is not the norm.

Let me be clear. This is not every municipal court in New Jersey. It is not even the majority. In most DWI cases, the defendant gets a fair shake both procedurally and substantively. But I have noticed a disturbing increase in the unwillingness of courts to enforce Orders that have been entered.


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