I am representing myself in a DUI case. I want to plead guilty (I did commit the offense) and want my suspension to start ASAP. When I talked to the Prosecutor he told me I can't just plead guilty and that he needs the test results. What I've been told is that the State Police wont give them results to anyone but an attorney. The prosecutor said he would obtain the results for me, is that to be trusted at all?
You absolutely need an attorney. In addition to what my colleague indicated, subsequent offenses have enhanced penalties in New Jersey. Also, if this is a first offense, if your blood alcohol readings are between certain levels, you might be eligible for a lesser suspension, but you won't know this without the necessary discovery. Typically, you request discovery in writing from the Municipal Court of the town where the summons was issued-you can call them and ask the procedure to request discovery. While the prosecutor does have an obligation to be candid with you, his job is to convict you. I suggest you find an experienced DUI attorney ASAP.
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New Jersey Law (Generally N.J.S.A. 2B:25-5(a) & R. 7:7-7 et seq.) requires the Municipal Court Prosecutor to respond to defense discovery requests. The New Jersey State Police will not respond directly to a defense discovery demand, even through a lawyer. The State Police follow established law and proper procedure in this regard. The Prosecutor is an advocate for the State; however, the law still requires him, to seek justice. In this regard, I surmise that the Prosecutor wants to see at the very least, what the breath readings are (since your sentence for a first offense will be dependent on the level), and whether the readings are within the acceptable tolerances for the Alcotest instrument (a rudimentary calculation to determine whether the readings are even evidential at sentencing). However, in the end, while the Prosecutor will likely undertake this very basic and necessary review, the system is still adversarial in nature. There may be defense issues that the Prosecutor will not be obliged to point out to you, or seek out on your behalf. You have every constitutional right to represent yourself, but doing so carries the real risk that you might miss critical defense issues. Further, even your stated goal (getting the suspension to start "ASAP") is being hampered because you (understandably) lack the necessary knowledge of the system. In any event, good luck. For many clients, the uncertainty having a DWI charge hang over their heads is stressful in and of itself.
Greggory M. Marootian, Esq.
Do not go on this journey without an attorney. In most states a DUI conviction will result in mandatory jail, fines, driver's license suspension, probation and being barred entry into Canada. Also, do not trust the prosecutor because it is their job to successfully prosecute you for this crime. They are not there to help you in any fashion.
I also would be very hesitant about talking directly to the police when asking for evidence about your case. If you do so make sure you say nothing about the incident. Anything you say can be used against you even statements made well after the incident. However, my advice is to get an attorney even if you think you are guilty. You can almost always plea bargain or settle your case to avoid harsh mandatory penalties.
If you cannot afford an attorney I would request the court to provide a public defender. You should do this well before your next court hearing. Just go to the courthouse and ask about public defense. If you can afford a DUI attorney I would look for one on Avvo in your area or call the New Jersey Bar Association and ask for any state referral service. Only hire an experienced DUI defense attorney though.
I don't practice in NJ. If you are representing yourself you need to obtain the records by subpoena duces tecum on a non-party, like the NJ State Police. You definitely should obtain the discovery before pleading. You should probably consult with a local DUI attorney once you have the discovery and see whether it's worth it to hire an attorney.
Edward J. Blum
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