New Jersey DWI Speedy Trial Rights Expanded
A NJ appeals court recently dismissed a DWI charge for the State's failure to provide discovery to the defendant's attorney for 531 days. The court reasoned that the defendant's speedy trial rights were violated even though the defense attorney wasn't "energetic in his demands" for discovery.
531 Days to Turn Over Discovery Violates a NJ DUI Defendant's Speedy Trial RightsThe New Jersey courts have ruled twice in the last year that DWI defendants are entitled to the same speedy trial rights that are extended to criminal defendants. Recently in State v. Downs, an unpublished Appellate Division decision, the court ruled that the prosecution's failure to provide defense counsel with DWI discovery for 531 days violated the defendant's speedy trial rights pursuant to Barker v. Wingo, 407 U.S. 514 (1972), concluding that the defendant's rights were prejudiced by the State's delay. The Downs decision echoes the 2013 case of State v. Cahill, 213 N.J. 253 (2013), where the court dismissed a NJ DWI charge after 16 months had passed between the date the case was remanded to the municipal court and a trial date was set. Downs essentially takes the Cahill case a step further inasmuch as the courts are more or less using a 1 year rule for a New Jersey drunk driving case to go to trial. If that trial date is delayed for the State's inaction[s], a speedy trial motion to dismiss may be a viable outcome for a defendant. What is notable in the Downs and Cahill decisions is that both of those cases were transferred to the superior court for review and then later remanded to the appropriate municipal court for handling. Cases which are transferred from one court to another can face delays, missing records, and other problems.
NJ Defense Attorney is Not Obligated to Continually Demand DWI Discovery from ProsecutorThe Downs case also touches on an issue which is constantly debated in New Jersey DWI defenses. What is the obligation of the defendant's lawyer to obtain all discovery from the prosecutor? The answer is complex. Many courts have their own methods regarding DUI discovery. Some prefer the request goes directly to the police records department. Some prosecutors prefer demands are made to their private law offices. And many New Jersey driving under the influence cases with blood or urine tests involve multiple law enforcement agencies. It appears that the defense in Downs made a timely written discovery request and a follow up phone call as well. The court said that was enough effort and that there is no need for defendants to "chase down" their DUI discovery. Thomas Carroll Blauvelt, Esq. is an attorney at law and former municipal prosecutor in New Jersey primarily handling DWI, criminal, juvenile, and traffic violation defense matters. Call Now at 1-877-676-7729.