On Tuesday, November 13, 2018, the New Jersey Supreme Court issued a ruling that will potentially allow more than 20,000 people to challenge their DWI convictions. The ruling applies to DWI convictions from 2008 through 2016 in Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean, Somerset and Union Counties, and potentially other counties where improperly-calibrated Alcotest breathalyzer devices were used during this time period. Individuals convicted of certain other offenses (i.e. driving on a suspended license after a DWI conviction) may have grounds to challenge their convictions as well, and those convicted of second or subsequent DWIs following a conviction between 2008 and 2016 may be entitled to relief from the harsh sentences they received as repeat offenders.
The Supreme Court’s decision reflects the majority’s conclusion that errors made in the calibration of certain Alcotest breathalyzer devices by New Jersey State Police Sergeant Marc Dennis call the reliability of arrestees’ breath test results into question. As a result of this calibration error, the test results are now being deemed inadmissible as evidence in court.
Can I Challenge My DWI Conviction Based on the Supreme Court’s Ruling?
According to court records, 20,667 people are potentially affected by the Supreme Court’s ruling. You may be eligible to have your DWI conviction overturned if:
- You were arrested for DWI between 2008 and 2016;
- Your arrest occurred in Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean, Somerset or Union County (or potentially another New Jersey county); and,
- Your conviction was based on the results of your breath test.
Additionally, if you were arrested and convicted for a subsequent offense following a DWI arrest between 2008 and 2016 (such as driving on a suspended license or a second DWI), you may have grounds to challenge your subsequent conviction as well.
The Supreme Court’s ruling included an instruction for authorities to, “notify all affected defendants of our decision . . . so that they may take appropriate action.” However, it is not yet clear how soon this notification will be provided, and it is possible that you may not receive your notification (for example, if you have recently moved). As a result, if you do not receive a notification, you should not assume that you are ineligible for relief if your DWI conviction meets the criteria outlined above.
In order to determine whether your conviction was based on the results of your breath test, it may be necessary to review the court records from your case. Our legal team can obtain these records for you, and we can help you determine if you are now eligible to challenge your DWI conviction in court.
What if I Have Already Served My Sentence?
If you have already served your sentence, is it still worth challenging your DWI conviction? For many people, the answer to this question will be a resounding, “Yes.” From the cost of auto insurance to the ability to find a job, having a DWI conviction on your record can have long-lasting effects in many aspects of your life. Since DWI convictions are not eligible for expungement in New Jersey (and the ordinary grounds for post-conviction relief are limited), the Supreme Court’s decision could provide your only chance to erase the consequences of your unlawful DWI arrest.
This is a significant development; and, as reported on NJ.com, the Attorney General’s Office is, “still coming up with guidance for [the] county prosecutors and municipal prosecutors who handle many of these cases.” If you believe that you may be eligible to have your DWI conviction reversed – or if you aren’t sure and would like to find out – we encourage you to contact us immediately for a confidential initial consultation.
Find Out if You are Eligible to Have Your NJ DWI Conviction Overturned
To find out if you are now eligible to have your New Jersey DWI conviction overturned, please contact our offices to discuss your case. Call 609-281-8581 to request a confidential case review, or send us your contact information and a member of our team will be in touch with you shortly.