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Does a drunk driving arrest always involve a criminal trial?

Someone facing driving under the influence charges in New Jersey might not necessarily see the inside of a courtroom. The reason has to do with the state’s criminal procedure regarding this type of offense.

As a law firm that focuses on DUI defense, we are well acquainted with the various forum options that an individual charged with drunk driving might encounter. As we explain on our criminal law website, DUI charges might result in license suspension, depending on the individual’s alleged blood alcohol content level. An accused has the right to request and appear at a suspension hearing; otherwise the suspension could be automatic.

However, the repercussions of a drunk driving arrest typically don’t end with license suspension. An accused may also have to appear for a separate municipal court hearing regarding the issue of jail time or paying a fine. 

As a recent article reminds us, the penalties for repeat DUI offenders can be even harsher. Surprisingly, however, there remains some uncertainty whether a repeat offender with three or more prior DUI offenses is entitled to a jury trial under state law.

The New Jersey Supreme Court is scheduled to hear an appeal involving this very issue. If the court decides that a jury trial should be a defendant’s right under the state constitution, one commentator questions how the state court system will accommodate that additional caseload. Could a defendant’s procedural rights be compromised? In such event, it might become more important than ever to seek the skilled representation of a DUI defense lawyer.

Source: New Jersey Law Journal, “Ladies and Gentlemen of the [DUI] Jury,” Alan G. Peyrouton, Dec. 2, 2015

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