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.
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