Prosecutors must now check abstracts in DWI cases

On July 9, 2004, the governor signed into law the provisions of Assembly bill A-1630. This statute now requires that a municipal prosecutor contact the MVC in all drunk driving and refusal cases and obtain an abstract of the defendant’s driving record. On the basis of the record, the prosecutor is to determine if the defendant will be subject to enhanced sentencing as a repeat offender and is also required to transmit the abstract to the municipal court judge prior to sentencing.

This statute was enacted in response to a couple of notorious incidents in which repeat DWI offenders were improperly sentenced as first offenders, despite the record of their prior multiple convictions.

The statute contains no sanctions for failure to comply with its requirements, nor any obligation to share the information received from the MVC with the defendant or his attorney as discovery.The statute also does not address the procedure to be used for defendants who are licensed out of state and thus have no record with the New Jersey MVC or for those with out-of-state convictions that do not show up on the New Jersey driving abstract.

A copy of A1630 in included below, along with the official statement from the Legislature. The law goes into effect on October 1, 2004.

Be it enacted by the Senate and the General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

1. Whenever a person is charged with a violation of R.S.39:4-50 or section 2 of P.L.1981, c.512 (C.39:4-50.4a), a municipal prosecutor shall contact the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission by electronic or other means, for the purpose of obtaining an abstract of the person’s driving record. In every such case, the prosecutor shall:

a. Determine, on the basis of the record, if the person shall be charged with enhanced penalties as a repeat offender; and

b. Transmit the abstract to the appropriate municipal court judge prior to the imposition of sentence..

Official Statement of the Legislature

As amended and reported by the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee, Assembly Bill No. 1630 requires prosecutors to determine if a person charged with drunk driving or refusal to consent to a breathalyzer test is a repeat DWI offender. Currently, prosecutors can obtain a motorist’s driving abstract from the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission; however, they are not required to do so. Under the provisions of the amended bill, the prosecutor is to contact the Motor Vehicle Commission by electronic or other means to obtain an abstract. These Senate amendments require the municipal court prosecutor to also transmit the abstract to the appropriate municipal court judge prior to the imposition of sentence.

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