Thursday, February 28, 2008

NJ DWI Laws Are Unfair & Counterproductive.

Nearly every State allows for work/conditional drive's licenses for people convicted of DWI, particularly for first-time offenders. New Jersey is one of only a few States that does not provide conditional licenses. The Judge must suspend (unconditionally) the license of anyone who is convicted of DWI for the prescribed statutory minimum period – (ninety-days to one year for a 1st offense, two-years for a 3rd, and ten-years for a 3rd). Further, there is a strict prohibition against plea-bargaining a DWI charge.

The strict and unforgiving DWI law(s) in New Jersey fail to serve the aim of deterrence and may hinder rehabilitation. Harsh penalties create havoc on lives that may already be in emotional turmoil that caused the drinking and driving in the first place. Innocent family members who are relying on the drivers are negatively affected. For many offenders, a DWI charge is a wake-up-call. The stress, shock, shame, and embarrassment of being arrested, handcuffed, and having to stand in front of a Judge is a sufficient deterrent for many offenders. For many, (particularly multiple offenders), there is some underlying psychological condition that is causing the drinking. In other words, many people facing a DWI charge are “self-medicating” with alcohol to get out of pain and/or to change their emotional state(s). I have represented people suffering from varied and real emotional trauma that underlie the DWI offense (e.g. rape and child-abuse victims, people who have suffered unexplained loss of loved ones, people who have been betrayed by spouses, etc.). Penalties that are excessively punitive do nothing to help these people. Rather, the harsh laws may very well exacerbate their underlying psychological distress.

There is a prohibition against plea-bargaining DWI cases. A plea bargain is an agreement between the prosecutor and defense whereby the defendant will plead guilty to a lesser offense. New Jersey lawmakers have, for reasons that defy logic and fair play, singled out DWI as an offense that cannot be plea-bargained. The thinking is that DWI is a serious offense – the often-used lightening-bolt language used is that DWI causes “carnage” on the roads. However, murderers, rapists, child-molesters, armed-robbers, and other sociopath offenders cause greater havoc to society. Why are their offenses not targeted like DWI? These defendants can plea-bargain and make deals, but DWI defendants cannot. I believe that the distinction and targeting is simply unfair.

The targeting of DWI offenses (by not allowing plea-bargains, and not allowing conditional licenses) defies equality and fundamental fairness. Harsh New Jersey DWI laws do little to make New Jersey a safer and better place to live. Rather, harsh and unforgiving DWI laws allow other more serious and cold-hearted offenders to get breaks creating an illogically unfair system of justice. New Jersey DWI laws fail to deter, they punish families, and they push people who are already in emotional pain into greater despair. New Jersey DWI Defense Lawyer Greggory M. Marootian, Esq.

14 comments:

gmmesq said...

This is an email I received on March 17, 2008 – “hate mail” so to speak. My response is below.


EMAIL RECEIVED ON MARCH 17TH

I trust that you heard the state Supreme Court ruled that Alco-Tests are legal. No doubt you have clients who will be disturbed to hear this. I wrote a blog about this topic today, and briefly discussed you:

http://www.silentmike.net/2008/03/17/trouble-for-new-jerseys-drunkards/

I find any lawyer who defends people against DUI charges to be disgusting. It is my opinion that you won't think the tough laws are "unfair and counterproductive" if someone you care about is killed by a drunkard. Have a good day defending drunks.


MY RESPONSE

Michael. Good Morning. I received your email and read your post. Taking your position to its logical extreme, perhaps someone (you perhaps) should decide who is entitled to a defense and who is not deserving of one. For those people and whose offenses are determined to be reprehensible and despicable (like as you assert, people accused of dwi), we should just take the Governments' word for it. The Constitution was created by the framers to protect against Government abuse. Due Process protections in the Constitution provide for a fundamentally fair process and act as a counterweight against Government abuse and tyranny. While it might seem counterintuitive to many, defense lawyers serve a vital and necessary role in keeping the immense power of the State in check. Like it or not, defense lawyers are part and parcel of the checks and balances that make this Country the great land it truly is.

Further, part of what I am imparting in my blog is that many people who are charged with dwi and suffering emotionally and use alcohol to self-medicate or try and eliminate their pain(s). I do not condone drunk driving. However, there is often an overlap of emotional pain in connection with the dwi offense that differentiates it from other offenses. I have represented victims of childhood sexual abuse, rape victims, people who have lost loved ones (one client who lost her mother and father in a one-month span), gay people who feel condemned, ashamed and depressed because of hatred and bigotry, people going through divorce – and the list of pain goes on, but you get the point. These folks are merely trying to get out of pain - albeit in a manner that causes more trouble and pain.

Anonymous said...

The "silentmikes" in this nation probably want a "nazis-socialists" country to live in. Truly, they are ill-informed and have only listened to the "Dan Rathers" in our nation. Perhaps they too.. should have an ocassional "drink" so thier heart "lightens" up a bit. Non illegitimi carborundum to folks like "silentmike". He represents the "problem".. not the "solution" to human charachters. Hopefully, he has no offspring to carry on such mental genes as his. Dudge.

seeker said...

It was so refreshing to read your post "NJ DWI Laws Are Unfair & Counterproductive". I totally agree with you and would like to do something about it.

How does one go about changing the law in NJ to allow work/conditional licenses for people convicted of DWI? I agree that DWI is a serious offense and must have serious consequences but forcing people to lose their jobs and fall into poverty and despair is absolute stupidity! I have compared the number of fatal alcohol related accidents in states that do allow conditional licenses to the number of fatal alcohol related accidents in states that do not allow conditional licenses and found that the percentage of alcohol related fatalities is the same. In other words, allowing conditional licenses doesn't have a negative effect on highway fatalities. Denying people conditional licenses serves only to destroy lives and inflict suffering on the innocent dependents of offenders. This is cruel and unusual punishment! People are being persecuted, arrested and jailed because they need to go to work and back to feed their families and pay the bills!

Job loss has been identified as a major trigger for debilitating depression, substance abuse and suicide. Job loss means no money and no medical insurance for offenders and their dependents. Even the most closed-minded must be able to see that an increase in job loss (especially in this economic climate) is not only counterproductive but also destructive to society. Not allowing conditional licenses is inhumane, short-sighted, and downright foolish.

How do we change this?

gmmesq said...

Seeker. Nice post - thanks for your participation. Only the “powers that be” can change the law(s). What politician will want to come out publicly in support of a law that seems soft on dwi? It would take a politician who was concerned only with doing what is right and just, and who is not going to pander to the zealots. If you find that politician, let me know. I think you have a better chance of finding “Big Foot” or the “Loch Ness Monster.”

Anonymous said...

I just heard about an ignition interlock law passed in Illinois, effective 01/01/09 that requires installation of these devices for anyone ever convicted of DUI. As a NJ resident convicted only once in 1997, I do not like the idea of having the State come to me 11 years later to demand more of me when I paid my dues under the laws of the day. Where is the ACLU to prevent this legal over-reach?

Anonymous said...

I couldnt help but read these postings and want to sound off myself. I think drunk driving is a deporable act as well, however my sister was just convicted of a DUI in new jersey and she wasnt even driving!!! I was driving my car when another car struck me from behind. My sister was DRUNK in the passenger seat. By the time the police arrived (after I called them 4 times to report the accident) both my sister and I were out of the vehicle. The girl who struck my car insisted to the police officer that it was my sister that was driving and not me. Even though the car is owned by me and I drive it to and from work every day. In addition we were both given road side tests, i passed and was deemed sober and my sister failed, as she was admittedly drunk. After 10 months of litigation, the elizabeth municipal court judge deemed the girl who hit me to be more credible than me and my sister and gave my sister a DUI. Now she is subject to all of these DUI rules, cannot drive, etc. We would love to appeal but dont have the money to do. Although NJ is harsh and unfair to drunk drivers, they also impune drunk passnegers and have no respect for the laws that gover this land. Reasonable doubt...hmm why would the sober owner of the car give the keys to her admittedly drunk sister? THey are too harsh in general on DUI cases, all the judge is interested in is condemning anyone and everyone he can. It saddens me that the people of this country are not protected under the laws.

Anonymous said...

I am dwi offender, several times. I can tell you the reasons outlined for drinking, depression, psychological problems, etc. are right on the mark. There is no other reason for someone to harm themselves with substances such as alcohol over and over again if there isn't some underlying factors. Furthermore, many people that drink are in denial, they don't realize the have a problem until it's too late. This is where the DWI laws fail to make a distinction, they has a one size fits all policy that destroys many otherwise good families that can come out of the situation and stay productive members of society. If it wasn't for this my life would have been without event, never commited a violent crime,raised nice family, great employee in a wonderful career and the list goes on. We live in a society where every othger commercial is alcohol related, and yet we are told if we have too much and drive we don't deserve to be part of society anymore. I have caused this to myself and make no apologies, it has been my very bad judgement thinking I was not drunk that got me into this, but taking folks livelyhood away, sending to jail with real criminals and not addressing the person and the reason they drink is a big flaw in the law. I would also argue, that just like airbags,seatbelts, and other safety measures if drinking and driving wanted to be stopped to save lives to stop the "carnage" , then we need to make cars with sometype of safety device that will not allow a driver to drive that car drunk. This is a very complicated topic and yes drinking and driving is a very serious problem. I would prefer laws that aim to help individuals, the laws are way to harsh. Families are destroyed, and yes many folks that drink have a real disease, sinking them further is not helping anyone. In fact, some help may be the very thing that allows them to free themselves of the demons and strat believing that someone cares again.

Anonymous said...

im too a multiple offender in nj with 10 yrs suspension i agree with this blog to strict on dwi i was a happily married now divorced father of 3,i was a homeowner,2 cars,boat,and a dog sucessfull business,i was a nj multiple tax paying citizen for every thing i owned and the fees for registrations,titles,insurances,constantly making consumer purchases helping the state economy and businesses grow.i am a recovering alcoholic due to treatment,meetings and counseling. i wasnt a everyday alcoholic i drank once in a while sometimes months went by and i didnt drink,but when they went back 20 yrs for my recent dui which i wasnt even on a road nor was i driving but i was nabbed by assumption that means the officer assumed i drove and thats ok in nj courts apparently??? this 10 year suspension happened i got 10 times worse with my drinking now ive lost everything family, house,business,income,and the state loses for all the things i used to pay now they have to which is the taxpayer essentially once they take your ability to go to work taking your license the fines dont get paid so who pays the taxpayer bcause a person has to keep getting locked up for not paying fines or not paying or getting to a mandatory state run idrc program u go back to the revolving jaildoor which creates majority of overcrowding and then need more prisons for the state thats broke,the system is setup to fail bcause politicians go with groups that get them votes to pass more laws on dui offenders they lose focus on the actual disease and common sense it takes to see what is actually happening a lawyer can tell you they cant keep up with the legislation add ons and changes or penalties that r placed upon dui offenders the circus begins it is a merry go round and the taxpayer pays for all of it,i feel if i were allowed to install a breathalyzer in my car to prevent it from starting to just go to work and back not a full time driver license, after serving part of the suspension and proven treatment and mandatory continued treatment i can help the state and im not the only one there are so many penalties attached to the driver license the state has willing and able people to work sitting idle bcause of penalties on driver licenses there are some politicians all about mental illness who should be funding people like me with depression who self medicate with government approved and state taxed cash cow alcohol instead they destroy the the guy to see him living on the street begging for some assistance.which eventually becomes the burden of the taxpayers and taxes go up bcause the state handed a sentence down so harsh that child molesters murderers rapists mentally ill get early release go free bcause they have been rehabilitated when does rehabilitation for the alcoholics get a chance to show they have changed, driver license is a privelage and so is freedom,when someone has a disease it can hurt a family emotionally,financially,and change their lives forever, but politicians c this as a cash cow disease, shame on them and alot of others in this state see alcoholism criminal and profitable, god forbid your husband,wife,child,parent,or any other relative has it, it is a horrible disease and the state is making a fortune off of it yes i made mystakes and regret these mystakes and wish i could change the past and all the self and family destruction i did but it was the disease not the person i truly am.the state needs to recognize rural nj doesnt have public transportation as they see out the window in trenton, the boys in trenton have lost all common sense GREED

Anonymous said...

in some states there is a pill (antibuse? maybe). some require interlock devices, or red license plates to indicate a d.w.i. convicted operator. these are all at the drivers cost. this would provide monitering jobs and put us convicted drivers back to work. a suspended driver cant be insured, but they drive to get to work if nothing else. most only drink more to soften the blow of unemployment, the inevitible loss of family,etc. an individual suspect of murder, rape, robbery, assualt, are permited to speak to a lawyer before any tests or testimony. why not d.w.i.? the courts can make considerations at sentencing, is he a family man, previous record, job, poor upbringing. if a sickness, disease or malady exists maybe counseling is appropriate. not so for d.w.i.. has'nt alcohol been deemed to be a disease? why are the sentences mandatory? why are we treated worse than the people that commit these heinous crimes. maybe we all need to get together and petition trenton. have a rally, march on the state house. decisions have been reversed in the past, why not now? the punishment is not fitting the crime. we have designed programs to help gang members,child abusers, drug addicts, even dogs and cats. i had the opportunity to speak to a nj congressman about this. his reply, no one wants to touch such a sensitive issue, thats a hot potato. maybe if some congress member could solve this issue, he would be considered a hero. we need help and direction, not just punishment. at this rate the dwi problem is getting worse,not better.

Anonymous said...

the induction of an antabuse program is a great idea! you would have to report to a specific place to take it. no show, and licence is re-suspended. they do it for junkies taking methadone to keep them out of jail. this would be at the patients expense. for those who dont know, antabuse is used by the military as an alternitive to the brig for thier problem drinkers. drinking alchol while taking antabuse (even one drink)causes nausea,severe vomiting,dizziness,flushing,tachycardia, and a host of other sicknesses.it makes you wish you would die. it would make even a career drinker stop.it would certainly seperate those who want to work, and those who would rather drink.this would remove the uninsured drivers attemping to get to work,doctors, etc.this would remove a great number of convicted drunk drivers from the road, knowing they cant drink while taking this preperation. the public at large would be somewhat safer and it would be a step toward eliminating part of this problem.

William Ropp, Montrose, Pa said...

I'm a multi DWI offender in several states, over a 26 year period. servered all time, meet all requirements, state of NJ has lost documents to such, for 1994 DWI. did weekend jail there and idrc classes in neighboring state . here it is 15 years later, i have no records from idrc classes, center that does it destroys records every 5 years. Now NJ has me on National drivers register as being in non copliance. Unable to renew licsence in my state of residence. Won't accept classs from 1999 conviction of my residence state, say it doesn't meet NJ law of 16 week duration. Yet it exceeds NJ 40 hours IDRC class, plus i quit drinking in 1999, and won't ever drink again. BECAUSE i didn't need the crap that could happen if i did, but guess theres no justice for the convicted if someone else doesn't do there job in NJ DMV!!!

Anonymous said...

I know this thread is two years old, but I am the blogger who started this particular chain, so here is my response, albeit two years after the fact:

http://www.michael-crook.com/2010/06/05/defending-drunkards-is-disgusting/

Greggory M. Marootian, Esq. said...

Mike calls due process protections for people charged with DWI “unfortunate” and refer to New Jersey DWI Defense Lawyers as “beyond redemption” (I get the feeling that he is talking about me). This is all from a man who, in one of his blogs, called a 16-year old girl who died in a car accident (she was an innocent passenger) “white trash” – and called the accident “humorous” and “absolutely hilarious.” www.michael-crook.com/2010/06/05/will-it-be-a-white-trash-funeral.

Mike advocates “shoot[ing] drunken drivers on sight.” Perhaps Mike would prefer to live in a country that agrees with his ideology – how about China, Cuba, or Venezuela. I also heard that Iraq is short on citizens.

Mike spews that “DWI cases are also slam dunk … There is absolutely no way for a false DWI charge to be made. At the same time, Mike distrusts (even hates the Police) - www.michael-crook.com/2010/06/03/maybe-cops-are-pigs - inconsistent with his position that the Police should “shoot drunken drivers on sight” and be the proverbial judge and jury. Moreover, dwi cases are not always open and shut. There can be constitutional violations (e.g. unconstitutional stop and arrest), faulty field testing, and incorrect breath test results. In Mike’s world, these folks would just be collateral damage.

Being charged with dwi is startling and stressful. Many defendants feel ashamed and are racked with guilt. They deserve to be treated with respect and empathy.

Anonymous said...

I have responded to your latest post with a final observation of mine. Suffice it to say that I find your defense of drunken drivers appalling. Certain things are given up when one gets behind the wheel.

When you drive, you are consenting to a field BAC test at any time. Refuse it, and you're guilty. That's the law. The procedure for processing drunken drivers is rock solid. You either blow an illegal BAC or you don't.

You seem to be more interested in the rights of a drunk than the rights of the victims they leave in their wake.

You whine about inaccurate field tests. That's what Alco-Tests are for, and at the very least, a drunk is taken off the road while it's determined whether not they're drunk enough to be charged. Maybe you'd rather have drunks on the road, yes?

I suppose you'd feel pretty good about yourself defending and maybe even getting off a client who killed someone while drunk. You'd be the type of lawyer to try to get the Alco-Test thrown out, even if was accurate. As long as your client tap dances out of responsibility, you don't care about the bodies he or she leaves in his wake.

We should be concerned about the drunkard's shame? Their feelings? We should worry about their stress level? If they got behind the while while drunk, sir, they were not concerned about anyone's safety..not even yours. How do you feel about that?

It is my sincere hope, sir, that you are taken out by a drunken driver, you and every attorney who even thinks about possibly defending a drunken driver.

I can't wait to read your name in the paper following your death at the hands of a drunken driver. You obviously don't care if a drunken driver kills or injures people, because according to you the drunk's rights are the only ones that count.

So let's see YOU die because of one. I only hope you have enough time to process your thoughts, and realize that you are a complete scumbag for defending drunks.

-- Michael Crook