Plea Bargaining

New Jersey DWI Defense Lawyers

Most individuals are familiar with the concept of “plea bargaining” but are misinformed that it comes into play in New Jersey DWI cases. While plea bargaining a dismissal or a downgrade of a charge(s) is relatively common place throughout the court system, this practice is unavailable when it comes to driving while intoxicated charges. Plea bargaining of N.J.S.A. 39:4-50 charges is, in fact, illegal in New Jersey. There must be a bona fide proof issue (i.e. doubt as to the state’s ability to establish a DWI violation) in order for a downgrade or dismissal to be permitted by a municipal court judge. This is where the training and experience of defense counsel is so important — the ability to identify and/or create genuine issues. The New Jersey DWI attorneys at our firm, the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall, clearly are some of the more qualified in the state with 5 or more who are certified on the Alcotest (no other firm possesses this), four former drunk driving prosecutors on staff, and at least three lawyers who are certified in Field Sobriety Testing (there may be a total of 15 who have this certification in the state). A lawyer is available immediately to discuss your case and initial consultations are always free of charge so do not hesitate to give us a call.

Downgrade or Dismissal of DWI Charges

Although there is a prohibition against plea bargaining driving while intoxicated charges, a prosecutor may exercise prosecutorial discretion and downgrade or even dismiss a 39:4-50 if there is legal basis to do so outside of pure plea bargaining. Where there is a real evidentiary proof or legal issue concerning a prosecutor’s ability to prove a DWI, a dismissal or downgrade of the offense is not a plea bargain. The prosecutor must, nonetheless, place the facts as to why the resolution is not a plea bargain on the record so that they may be reviewed and evaluated by the municipal court judge presiding over the case. An offense will not be dismissed or reduced absent approval by the Court. The questions that are typically raised when approval for a dismissal or downgrade is sought include:

  • What is the proposed resolution?
  • What is the factual and/or legal basis for the proposed resolution?
  • Is the arresting officer aware of the plea and in agreement with what is being done?

If the court concludes that there is proper basis to support the amendment or dismissal of the N.J.S.A. 39:4-50 charge, then the plea can be put through.

Exceptions to the Plea Bargaining Prohibition. While pure plea bargaining of drunk driving tickets is outlawed in NJ, companion tickets are not subject to the ban. The only time a companion ticket may not be plea bargained is when the companion summons involves a first offense of refusal (second or subsequent refusals are not subject to the ban) or a school zone DWI.

If you have any questions regarding a drunk driving charge, a skilled defense lawyer on our staff is ready to assist you. We can be reached anytime 24/7 at 877-450-8301.