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Post-Conviction Relief and Drunk Driving Cases

April 4, 2016 | Posted In Drunk Driving

If you’ve been charged with driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you have the option of challenging the accusations made against you. Because drunk driving charges rely heavily on eyewitness testimony (particularly from the arresting officer who observes the alleged drunken behavior), as well as physical evidence collected at the time (open liquor or beer bottles from your vehicle), it’s often difficult to definitively prove that you were too drunk to drive.

That is why it is crucial for you to work with a skilled drunk driving lawyer who will fight for your rights under the law. Still, even if you are convicted, all is not lost -- you may have additional options.

After you’ve been convicted of drunk driving, you can apply for post-conviction relief to appeal the verdict against you. This process takes place in the same court in which you were originally convicted, and it is assigned the same case number. The New Jersey Rules of Court (NJROCs) cover the rules for filing and acting on a post-conviction relief petition. Because drunk driving is considered a traffic offense under the state’s law and not a criminal offense, the procedures for post-conviction relief are found in Rule 7:10-2.

Timeframe for Applying

A person charged with driving while intoxicated can file a petition up to five years after the original conviction. The idea behind the post-conviction relief option is to allow the individual an opportunity to right a wrong and correct an illegal sentence. The need for correction could still be valid within five years and the defendant may be able to prove his or her innocence. If, for some reason, the individual misses the five-year deadline and can prove that this lapse in filing was due to his or her own excusable neglect, the five-year deadline will not be applied.

Grounds for Post-Conviction Relief

Under Rule 7:10-2, the grounds for post-conviction relief include, for instance, a sentencing structure that violates the state’s law by exceeding the maximum penalty limits as set by the state. Additionally, if a defendant’s rights under the United States or New Jersey Constitutions were violated at any point during the arrest, trial or conviction, he or she has grounds to file for relief. Other factors include a lack of jurisdiction and most other grounds that can be used to file habeas corpus petitions.

A drunk driving conviction can cost you in fines and jail time and could have negative impacts on your personal and professional life, especially if your license is suspended. A DUI charge also impacts any future criminal charges you may face, as DUI/DWI penalties increase in severity if you have a few on your record. To discuss your case and your options for filing a petition for post-conviction relief to correct a wrongful drunk driving conviction, contact a New Jersey drunk driving lawyer at Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA, today. We represent all drivers who are facing DUI/DWI charges or who have already been convicted.

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