I appeared in a south Jersey municipal court this afternoon for a DWI trial date. I arrived about half hour early to discuss the matter with the prosecutor and judge.
Prior to this date a had successfully argued to have the Alcotest readings suppressed (couldn’t be used as evidence against my client). This put us in a much better position because the readings were fairly high (.15 BAC). At that BAC level my client was exposed to the higher level of penalties for a first offense. This included the ignition interlock and up to a year loss of license.
There were also some aggravating factor (motor vehicle accident with another car).
Given the facts of the case, the state was willing to proceed with the DWI charge as an observation case. This includes everything else other than the Alcotest readings, including performance on the field sobriety tests, the manner of driving, speaking, appearance, admissions of drinking, smell of alcohol etc.
This is a perfectly valid way for the state to prove its case and in fact most DWI trials boil down to the observations if the readings are suppressed. The penalties for a conviction for an observation offense are not as harsh. Monetarily they are the same but the max on the license suspension is three months if it is a first offense. Most times I go to trial if the readings are kicked pre-trial, but it really depends on the case.
Interestingly enough, my client was licensed in another state. This fact played into my strategy. Just about every state is a party to the interstate driver compact. This means that most states will take action against your license even if you get the ticket or charge in another state. The question is what kind of action?
For example if you live in state A, state B can only suspend your privilege to drive in state B. State A can take separate action against you and may suspend your license in state A, but it depends. Also in most states, New Jersey excluded, the DMV will allow for a provisional license no matter the nature of suspension. However, this may not be the case for Dwi convictions.
Why does this matter? Here is why. I did my research and spoke to my client. First, a DWI conviction in News Jersey costs upwards of five grand in fines and surcharges. Second, if he was convicted of DWI in this state or any other he would lose his job. Third, he doesn’t ever drive in New Jersey. It was a fluke. Third, the only way New Jersey suspension could hurt him in his state would be if it was because of a Dwi conviction. A suspension for a conviction for just about any other motor vehicle infraction would likely not result in a suspension in his state.
Putting this all into the calculator this is what you get. How long Nj suspended his license was unimportant. What mattered was the nature of the conviction. Meaning if there was a way to get rid of the Dwi without having to take a chance at trial then it was a no brainer.
The prosecutor didn’t know any of the background. My offer to the state was dismiss the Dwi, the defendant pleads guilty to reckless driving.
This offer was not appreciated at first, but as the day went on and the state had the time to review my arguments and the strength of its case, the prosecutor came around with one minor modification. A short loss of driving privileges in Nj. Who cares? No trial where the outcome would be uncertain. No loss of job. No loss of driving privileges in the places he had to drive. No 5k in penalties. He won’t even get the points in his home state. And I got the DWI dismissed pre-trial. Not an easy thing to do.