Can You Appeal a DWI Conviction?
Kevin: Following the trial, the defendant has an opportunity to appeal the case in New Jersey Superior Court – Law Division. It’s referred to as a trial de novo. That is an opportunity to go to a judge in the law division who will read a transcription of the audio recording of the case in the municipal court.
The municipal court level is really the best opportunity to present all of your defenses and for the most part you’re only opportunity to present all your defenses in the case. However, once the case is lost in the municipal court, you still have that second opportunity to go win before the New Jersey Superior Court judge.
The Superior Court judge is limited in his review of the case to what’s on the record from the municipal court. That record includes any exhibits that were entered into evidence, such as video tape and audio tape, and then the actual stenographic or written record of the audio recordings.
The Superior Court Judge Reviews All Materials Presented By the Defense and the Prosecution; Both Sides Present Oral Arguments before the Judge Renders a Decision
A brief will be filed by the state and the defense on appeal. The judge will read the transcription of the hearing, read the briefs, and then there will be further arguments in front of him or her. These arguments are called oral arguments. Following the oral arguments, the judge will make a decision of whether your client is guilty or not guilty of those charges. And it is a new finding of guilty or not guilty in these cases.
You Can Appeal a Guilty Verdict to the Appellate Division; the Appellate Division Primarily Rules on Legal Rather Than Factual Issues
If the judge finds your client not guilty, then double jeopardy precludes the State from appealing the verdict. If your client is found guilty again, then you still have an opportunity to go to the Appellate Division and appeal any decisions that were made by the Superior Court.
Generally, the issues for appeal to the Appellate Division are legal issues, rather than factual issues that the judges in the law division and municipal court have already determined.
Interviewer: The Appellate Division is another option if your case did not favorably resolve.
Kevin: Yes, that’s correct. Your best chance to win is in the municipal court. The trial de novo gives you a second chance in front of a totally different judge who should, in theory, be a neutral, detached party that can give a fair determination of the case.
The Prosecution Is Not Allowed to Appeal a Not Guilty Verdict Rendered at the Municipal Level
Interviewer: Can the New Jersey State Prosecution make an appeal de novo just like a defense attorney can?
Kevin: If you’re found not guilty at the municipal court level, they cannot. A not guilty finding is a final finding and double jeopardy would preclude the State from appealing that.