When Does a DUI Conviction Become a Crime
In New Jersey, driving under the influence (“DUI”) by itself is considered a motor vehicle violation. DUI matters are heard in traffic court. Although a DUI conviction alone can involve jail time, it will not show up in a search of criminal records.
When does it become a crime?
When someone injures or kills someone while driving under the influence, criminal charges will be filed against the driver. The case then moves up to the state court level. The accused is then faced with either aggravated assault or death by auto charges.
Recent news reports reveal the story of an Elizabeth man in Union County Superior Court for charges of vehicular homicide. Almost a year ago, the offender was driving under the influence, when his car struck and killed a New York City firefighter. The decedent was on his motorcycle, heading to work. The driver was in court to plead guilty to death by auto. His plea came as a result of an arrangement with the Prosecutor’s office. When he is sentenced later this year, the prosecutor will recommend five years of prison time. News reports do not indicate if a fine was assessed against this particular defendant. They are also part of the process.
Plea Bargains Can Help Lessen the Penalties
Five years is minimal for a DUI case involving death by auto. The prosecutor’s recommendations are part of a plea agreement, often referred to as a plea deal. In criminal court, the defendant’s attorney has the opportunity to negotiate the outcome of the case with the prosecutor’s office. This process is called plea-bargaining. Part of the goal is to save the court time and expense. There are several factors involved in this process, thus it is important to retain competent counsel such as the law office of Beninato & Matrafajlo.
In negotiating a plea bargain, the prosecutor’s office will look at the current charges, as well as the defendant’s criminal history. As part of the plea arrangement, the defendant agrees to forego a trial in exchange for a guilty plea. Criminal judges are not bound by the agreement made between the parties. They can order the case back for further plea discussions. In some instances, the judge may refer the matter to trial.
Get Experienced Legal Help
The law office of Beninato & Matrafajlo collectively has over four decades of experience handling these types of matters. We have handled a number of DUI cases in both municipal and superior courts. If you have been charged with driving under the influence, please call us today at 908-248-4404.