Laurick Permits Sentencing Step-down on 4th DWI Conviction – State v. Conroy

In today’s Appellate Division ruling in State v. Conroy, the Court held that a successful collateral attack on a previous DWI conviction under State v. Laurick, 120 N.J. 1 (1990) will eliminate that conviction completely for purposes of determining the length of the authorized jail term for a subsequent DWI offense and does not prevent the defendant from receiving the benefit of a 10-year step down on a subsequent offense.

In Conroy, the defendant had three prior DWI convictions, the last of which was in 1995. In 2005, the defendant was arrested and charged with his 4th DWI offense. The 2005 offense occurred more than 10 years after his third offense in 1995. While the 4th offense was pending, the defendant collaterally attacked his first DWI conviction under State v. Laurick, arguing that this particular conviction had been uncounselled and was obtained without the proper judicial advisements and waivers. The defendant was successful in his collateral attack. Having thus successfully eliminated his first offense for sentence enhancement purposes as per Laurick, the defendant argued before the Appellate Division that he was entitled to the benefit of the 10 – year step-down on the mandatory jail term associated with his 4th offense in 2005 since that violation was now technically only his third offense for sentencing purposes. The Court agreed and ruled that for purposes of the custodial component of his sentence on the 2005 conviction, the defendant should be treated as a second offender. Thus, instead of facing a mandatory 180 jail term for his 2005 offense, following remand, the defendant will be subject to a jail term that will range between 2 and 90-days, as is required for 2nd offenders.

Download a copy of State v. Conroy.

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