New Jersey DUI Sentencing & the 10 Year Step-Down

When a client has multiple DWI convictions, the potential penalties begin to quickly escalate. In order to challenge the potential DWI penalties for multiple offenders, we often look back at the prior convictions to see if there is a way to challenge them. The DWI law of New Jersey provides for what is referred to as a step-down—where someone has gone 10 years or more from the date of a driving while intoxicated or driving under the influence conviction. What this basically means is that if an individual goes 10 years following a drunk driving conviction without committing another offense, his conviction shall be eliminated for sentencing purposes should he or she be convicted of a subsequent DWI or DUI. A problem arises, however, where an individual then goes on to accumulate a third DWI or DUI conviction.

In accordance with New Jersey’s Appellate Division decision in State v. Burroughs, 349 N.J.Super. 225 (App.Div.2002), the benefit of the ten year step-down was significantly limited. In this case, it was held that an individual will not get the benefit of any step-down if he is a third offender unless an additional ten years has expired between his second and third conviction for driving while intoxicated or driving under the influence. In other words, he or she is subject to the 180 day mandatory jail sentence as a third offender unless there is a second ten year gap between the second conviction and the third conviction. A copy of the opinion in Burroughs can be viewed by clicking the case name.

Sentencing can get significantly cloudy when the step-down is implicated and our client is a third or subsequent offender. In this regard, is it really fair to send someone to jail for 180 days when they were, in all likelihood, instructed by the Court at the time of their second conviction that the step-down only rendered them a first offender at that point in time? Arguments such as this one have proved successful for our office in avoiding incarceration as a third offender.

Please do not hesitate to contact our office for a free initial consultation.

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