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NJ DUI Procedure

Looking for information on NJ DUI? The following is what you can expect after being charged with a violation of NJ DUI.

1. The process begins with the signing of a Summons & Complaint against you by a New Jersey Police Officer. To view a sample NJ Summons & Complaint, Click here.

2. Unlike other traffic tickets, a DUI charge requires a defendant to appear in a NJ court to answer the charge at an Arraignment, sometimes referred to as a "first appearance".

The Arraignment is a formal procedure where the Court advises the defendant of the charges against him, advises the him of his rights, and enters the plea (guilty or not guilty).

NJ Law allows a defendant to enter a Not Guilty Plea to a DUI charge through an Attorney, thereby eliminating the need for a defendant’s court appearance in most cases. There may be unique circumstances where a defendant wants to plead guilty, or it is advisable to do so (at the Arraignment). However, in the majority of cases, entering a Not Guilty Plea is the recommended course of action at the Arraignment. Preferably, the Not Guilty Plea should be done through Counsel so that Counsel can enter and preserve Constitutional issues, particularly a defendant’s speedy trial right(s).

3. Following a Not Guilty Plea, the defense and prosecution are entitled to engage in a process known as pre-trial discovery (some States refer to this process as pre trial “disclosure”).

The defense is entitled to review all relevant evidence in the possession of the Police and other State agencies. The Municipal Prosecutor is ultimately obliged to respond to discovery requests and to assure compliance with the State’s discovery obligations. If the Prosecutor fails to comply, the defense can apply to the Court for an Order compelling production at the risk of a dismissal or suppression of certain of the State’s evidence against the defendant (see Pre-Trial Motions discussed below).

4. A Motion is simply an application by counsel seeking some type of relief from the Judge. The Motion is presented to the Trial Judge (either orally in open court, or by a written formal motion). By way of example, (there re many other pre-trial motions) the defense may, if appropriate move for the following relief:

A. To compel the State of NJ to supply discovery (9f not supplied in response to defense requests),

B. To suppress (i.e. exclude) Statements (based on some constitutional defect such as a failure to properly Miradize the defendant, or the lack of a knowing and intelligent waiver of Miranda rights),

C. To suppress (i.e. exclude) Evidence (based on some constitutional defect, such as an unlawful stop and detention of the defendant),

D. To limit testimony of State witnesses (e.g. to preclude witnesses from using the term “fail” with regard to the defendant’s performance on Field Sobriety tests, or to limit the introduction of certain sobriety tests such as the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test due to the inability of the State to prove that such tests have been regarded as scientifically reliable as an indicator of intoxication).

E. To Dismiss the charges (e.g. for the State’s failure to afford the defendant his constitutional right to a speedy trial, or for the State’s failure to supply relevant and possible exculpatory evidence or the State’s inability to sustain the charge).

5. There is no right to a jury Trial for a charge of NJ DUI (absent a felony type DUI Charge - e.g. where there is an accident involving injuries). The Trial will be presided over by one Municipal Court Judge. The Judge will hear the evidence, make findings and of fact and law, rule on guilt or innocence and impose sentence.

It is important to repeat and remind of the old adage: “innocent until proven guilty.” The Prosecutor has the burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt; the defense need not prove or say anything. The State calls and questions their witnesses and the defense is entitled to cross examines them.

Following the State’s case, the defense may ask the Trial Judge to enter a judgment of acquittal (arguing that all reasonable inferences lead to a finding of not guilty). If the Motion is denied, the defense case then proceeds. Defense witnesses are called and cross examined by the Prosecutor. A defendant can testify, but has no obligation to do so. The Court can not draw any inferences from a defendant’s election not to testify. The State then is entitled to put on rebuttal witnesses, concluding the Trial.

6. The Court states their findings of fact and law, and announces their decision (i.e. guilty or not guilty).

7. If the Defendant is found guilty, the Court imposes sentence. If the Defendant is acquitted, he is free to leave, and the State may not appeal.

8. The Defendant has twenty (20) days to appeal a conviction (to a higher Court). Appeals are heard by one Superior Court Judge who rules on the charge(s) by reviewing the Trial Transcripts and written evidence presented to the lower court - no new evidence is presented. The Court cannot impose a more severe sentence than that imposed by the Municipal Court Judge. If convicted again, the Defendant has forty five (45) days to appeal to the Appellate Division, a multi-Judge panel.

9. Each case is unique and the time it takes for cases to reach trial varies. However, Municipal Courts have been instructed by our Supreme Court to dispose of DUI cases within 60 days.  In that respect, DUI cases take high priority in the New Jersey Court system. You can expect your case to proceed rapidly and generally to be heard in the Municipal Court within 60 to 120 days. Appeals in the Superior Court will generally take between 90 days to 180 days to be reached - in the Appellate Division, it is not unusual for a case to be heard as long as one year after being filed.


Call on  NJ DUI lawyer, Greggory M. Marootian when you need experienced  professionals to give you the facts, and restore your integrity.

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© Copyright 1999. Greggory M. Marootian, Esq.  All rights Reserved. The information in this website is provided for informational purposes only; it is not as legal advice. Any questions about the law or your rights and obligations should be reviewed by legal counsel engaged by you and provided with your specific fact situation.