Monthly Archives: May 2016

Supremes: Still no jury trial in muni court for 3rd offense drunk drivers (but we’re close..)

[05/12/2016, 11:29 a.m.]  In the State v. Denelsbeck opinion released just moments ago, regarding 3rd offense drunk drivers in New Jersey, the Supreme Court emphasized that “the Legislature has reached the outer limit of what is permitted without a jury trial and that any additional penalties would cause this Court to reach a different conclusion.”

“[W]e believe that the Legislature has increased the severity of penalties associated with repeat DWI offenses to the point where any additional direct penalties, whether involving incarceration, fees, or driving limitations, will render third or subsequent DWI offenses ‘serious’ offenses for the purpose of triggering the right to a jury trial.”

All of this leaves NJ as the only state in the U.S. that does not provide for a jury trial for drunk driving cases.  We are clearly toeing the line of the constitutional threshold for right to a jury trial that is guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment.  Further penalties implemented by the Legislature would “pack” the offense of DWI to the point of becoming a “serious” offense for sixth-amendment purposes, and DWI jury trial will finally come to NJ at that point.

Click here for the PDF of this morning’s opinion, including the separate dissenting opinion by Justice Albin.

Mistake of Law can justify NJ MV Stop – Muni-mail

[05/05/2016, 1:44 p.m.]  The Appellate Division ruled this morning in State v. Sutherland that a reasonable, good faith mistake of law by a police officer can serve as a justification for a motor vehicle stop. This holding is in conformity with the United States Supreme Court decision in Heine v. North Carolina, 135 S. Ct. 530 (2014) and essentially overrules a contrary holding from a different Appellate Division panel in State v. Puzio, 379 NJ Super. 378 (App. Div. 2005).

For the PDF of the opinion in State v. Sutherland, click here.

Supremes: Three defenses to stealing trust account $$$

[05/03/2016; 7:14 p.m.]  In an opinion released this morning, the New Jersey Supreme Court clarified the specific psychiatric defenses that it will consider in cases of “knowing” misappropriation of client funds under the standards of In re Wilson, 81 NJ 451 (1979).

The Justices ruled in In re Cozzarelli, that there are three possible psychiatric defenses that can be raised as either an affirmative defense or by way of mitigation:
1.) Evidence of a mental illness that impairs the mind and deprives the attorney of the ability to act purposely or knowingly;
2.) Evidence of a mental illness that results in an inability to appreciate the nature and quality of the act he was doing; or
3.) Evidence of a mental illness that renders the respondent incapable of distinguishing between right and wrong.

The aforesaid three defenses are ones that can and should be considered in connection with excusing wrongful conduct by an attorney, or when mitigation of the disciplinary penalty is appropriate to consider under our disciplinary jurisprudence addressing the quantum of punishment.

To read a copy of In re Cozzarelli, click here.