The Timeline of a New Jersey DWI Arrest, Trial and Resolution
Interviewer: From start to finish, before you’re pulled over, through your arrest, through your court process whether you plead out or not or you go to trial, what are the events that occur during this process? What’s the timeline?
Preliminary Court Appearance
Kevin: The court process in New Jersey is initiated typically through an arrest at the time of the DWI investigation. Then the person is taken back to the police station and subjected to breath testing. After the breath testing is completed or if the person refuses to give breath samples, then that person is ticketed by the police. On the bottom of the ticket, there is a date to appear in court for what’s called a “first appearance” or “preliminary arraignment.”
If You Are Involved in an Accident, Your Ticket May be Sent in the Mail
There are occasions when a person isn’t ticketed or given a court date immediately. Usually that happens when an accident occurs and the person is taken to the hospital. Then tickets will typically be mailed to the person arrested and given a court date a few days later.
The Police Have to Meet the Statute of Limitations When Issuing DWI Tickets
The police have a statute of limitations for issuing DWI tickets. Statute of limitations means that if an offense occurs, the police have a certain period of time to charge the person with the offense. The statute of limitations for a DWI is 90 days.
Within 90 days following the incident, the officer has to ticket and serve the defendant with those tickets. The key aspect of what I just said is there has to be service as well. The police officer can’t just write the tickets and never send them out to the defendant and simply send them to the court.
The police officer actually has to have them delivered either by some type of certified mail or personally to the defendant
What Will Occur if the Statue of Limitations Is Not Adhered to or if the Court Does Not Have the Correct Paperwork?
Interviewer: Have the police ever forgotten about the statute of limitations? If someone isn’t properly served will the case be dismissed?
Kevin: It happens occasionally. In all of the years that I’ve been practicing DWI defense, I’ve had it happen two times where the police failed to properly serve tickets on a defendant or serve the tickets on the court.
For instance, the New Jersey State Trooper who had arrested one of my clients had given him the tickets, so the statute of limitations never came into play; however, he never sent those tickets over to the court. Because the court didn’t receive notification, the court never had scheduled the case for trial and the court never had my client in their system.
When I called the court to find out when the court date was going to be rescheduled, in this particular case, they claimed they never received the ticket. The case never came to trial, but that wasn’t an instance of statute of limitations problem. Instead, it was an issue of a speedy trial or due process violation.
And in another case I did have a client who was served with tickets after the 90 day statute of limitations. Again, that’s a very rare situation, because usually the police will arrest the person, take that person back to the police station, and then release the person with ticket in hand. In that case, the tickets were dismissed for the statue of limitations violation.