One of the most persuasive reasons for individuals facing drunk driving charges to retain competent counsel is the potential of losing driving privileges for a long time – perhaps even for life. A recently announced sentence in a New Jersey drunk driving case demonstrates the validity of this caution.
The case began when Toms River Police responded to what was described as a minor motor vehicle accident. One vehicle was apparently signaling for a left turn while a second vehicle was waiting behind it. A third vehicle – driven by the defendant – then struck the second vehicle from behind. The driver of the second vehicle was flown to Jersey Shore Medical Center for treatment of his severe injuries. He died two weeks later.
The criminal proceeding
The driver of the third vehicle was arrested and submitted to chemical breath testing. His blood alcohol content was determined to be 0.17% – which is more than twice New Jersey’s legal limit. He was charged with driving while intoxicated and death by auto. He pled guilty to both charges.
The judge sentenced the defendant to five years in prison for the death by auto charge. He will be required to serve not less than 85% of the sentence before he may be considered for parole.
In what may be the most punitive aspect of the sentence, the defendant was stripped of his driving privileges for the rest of his life. His driving privileges were also banned for a period of ten years for the DWI charge, but as a practical matter, that suspension is subsumed by the lifetime ban on driving imposed for the death by auto conviction.
The media report of this case does not state whether the defendant was represented by counsel during the plea agreement and sentencing negotiations. In any event, it’s worthwhile for anyone facing drunk driving charges to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney. They can help to understand the nuances of an individual case and build a robust defense to create the best possible outcome.