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313 White Horse Pike, Haddon Heights NJ 08035

Defendant charged with DUI wins key ruling in New Jersey

In its latest DUI decision, State of New Jersey v. William T. Barfuss, the  Appellate Division agreed with the Defendant that he is entitled to vacate (withdraw) his guilty plea to driving under the influence (DUI).  The Appellate Division reasoned that because the factual basis in support of his guilty plea to DUI inadequate to prove that he “operated” the vehicle as required by the DUI Statute the Defendant was entitled to withdraw his guilty plea.

Defendant was sentenced as a third time DUI offender and received 180 days in jail, 10 year suspension of his driver’s license and additional fines and penalties.  The sentence was stayed pending appeal.  The Defendant attempted to vacate his guilty plea based on his contention that factual basis he provided to the court did not support his guilty plea and consequently do not establish the element of operation required to sustain a DUI violation.

The Appellate Court recognized that, even though the defendant pled guilty, in appropriate cases he is entitled to file a motion to withdraw his guilty plea.  In order to enter a plea of guilty under a DUI Statute, the Defendant must establish a factual basis for driving while under the influence.   The Statute defines someone driving while under the influence as:

“a person who operates a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicated liquor, narcotics, hallucinogenic, or habit producing drugs or operates a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or more by weight of alcohol in the Defendant’s blood.”

In this case, the Defendant testified that he parked in a municipal parking lot and consumed alcohol.  At some point after consuming alcohol he was approached by a police officer who noticed that he was intoxicated.  At all times, the Defendant had his keys in his pocket.  When the Defendant was approached by the police officer, he was not in his car.

The Appellate Court ruled that the testimony offered during the guilty plea did not contain any evidence that the Defendant made any physical movement to put the car in motion at the time.  Therefore, there were no facts articulated by the Defendant that provide an adequate factual basis for his operation of the vehicle and ultimately his  guilty plea.  Based on the factual record presented, the Appellate Court reversed the decision of the Trial Court and ordered the guilty plea vacated and reinstated the original charges.  The case was remanded back to Trial Court for proceedings in accordance with the law as stated by the Appellate Court.

Do you have questions regarding DUI in New Jersey?  If you or someone you know is facing a charge of driving under the influence (DUI)contact the DWI defense lawyers at DeMichele & DeMichele. You can also reach us by telephone (856) 546-1350. Our lawyers are  skilled advocates who are ready to challenge the state’s evidence and protect your rights.

Post Author: Greg DeMichele

Gregory P. DeMichele is a seasoned litigator, devoting a substantial part of his practice to municipal court, family law and personal injury matters.