Just over state lines in neighboring New Jersey, the New Jersey Supreme Court recently declared that drivers who are convicted of DWI do not have the right to have a trial by jury. Under New Jersey law a DWI is not technically a criminal offense, but it still carries serious consequences. For repeat offenders it can still lead to jail time and fines. The Supreme Court in New Jersey determined that punishments for repeat DWI offenders are not sufficiently serious to result in a jury trial.
This case came about because a man who had been charged with a DWI four times was arrested. After being sentenced with 180 days in jail, a 10 year license suspension, two years of an ignition interlock device and $1,000 dollars in fines, the man claimed that the lack of jury trial violated his constitutional rights.
The New Jersey Supreme Court said that the need for a jury trial was outweighed by the need to promote judicial efficiency. New Jersey is somewhat of an anomaly when it comes to drunk driving laws. Forty other states give individuals charged with DWI a jury trial on their first offense.
New York Options for Trial
The United States Constitution provides that individuals shall have the right to trial by jury for criminal offenses. New York mirrors principles of the United States constitution in that it affords those who are being criminally prosecuted the right to have a trial by a jury of their peers.
Fortunately, New York has not adopted the same attitude towards jury trials for DWI offenses as New Jersey has. New York is more in line with the US constitution. If you are charged with a misdemeanor DWI, New York law gives you a right to a trial with six jurors. If you are charged with felony DWI, you have the right to a trial with 12 jurors. The difference between misdemeanor DWI and Felony DWI depends on a variety of circumstances. In most cases, a first time DWI offense will be a misdemeanor. However, if you have been convicted of driving under the influence or driving while intoxicated in the last 10 years, or there are other aggravating circumstances, the charge may be raised to a felony.
There is also an option of a bench trial where the judge will act as both the finder of fact and the decider on the law. If a case is complex and the evidence is difficult to understand it may be a smart idea to elect a bench trial.
Whether your case proceeds to a trial by jury or a trial in front of just the judge the best way to get a positive outcome is to have an experienced attorney fighting to protect your rights. We have the skills and experience to ensure that you receive the best possible outcome, whether before a judge or before a jury.
How Can We Help?
Charged with a DWI in New York? Contact our team today to learn your options. We’re available 24/7; (800) 570-1810.
DISCLAIMER: The exclusive purpose of this article is educational and it is not intended as either legal advice or a general solution to any specific legal problem.