NJ Appellate Ruling: Driving While Suspended After DWI Equals Jail

February 13, 2015

NJ Appellate Ruling: Driving While Suspended After DWI Equals JailAfter the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office appealed the sentences of six separate defendants who were convicted of driving with a suspended license following multiple DWI’s, a New Jersey Appellate Court issued a decision that will now require all defendants in these cases to serve mandatory jail time instead of alternative sentences such as in-home detention or community service.

A panel of three Appellate Judges decided with the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office and specifically, Assistant Prosecutor Jason Magid who argued the State’s case, on Wednesday, February 4th after hearing the precedent-setting case of State v. Harris. The case, in fact, encompassed six distinct incidences during which individuals who were found guilty of driving with a suspended license following multiple DWI convictions, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:40-26b, were to be allowed to serve alternative sentences in lieu of jail time.

An offense categorized under N.J.S.A. 2C:40-26b is a fourth-degree offense under New Jersey law and the statute itself includes language specifying the following: “Notwithstanding the term of imprisonment provided under N.J.S.2C:43-6 and the provisions of subsection e. of N.J.S.2C:44-1, if a person is convicted of a crime under this section the sentence imposed shall include a fixed minimum sentence of not less than 180 days during which the defendant shall not be eligible for parole.”

Prior to the recent Appellate ruling, some individuals, including those involved in State v. Harris, were permitted to serve the 180-day term referred to above in another capacity, such as in-home confinement or community service. Following this legal milestone, John D. Harris III, William Hangstorfer, Robert Kaczak, Kristin Mitchell, Mandi Filer and Sabrina King, will be re-sentenced by the court. Aside from King, who pleaded guilty to two counts of driving while suspended for a DWI offense and as such, is subject to two 180-day terms, each of the others will be now be required to serve 180 days in jail without the possibility of parole.

Notwithstanding the individuals directly impacted by the recent ruling, all those who are found guilty of driving while suspended following multiple DWI’s in New Jersey will be subject to a mandatory jail sentence. With the State’s judges abiding by the dictates of this precedent in the future, their judicial discretion with regard to sentencing in these cases will be extremely limited, making a successful argument against these allegations all the more essential for those facing these charges.

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