Refinement of Rules for Post-Conviction Relief in DWI Cases

Laurick motions are common in New Jersey when an individual faces incarceration for a pending third or subsequent offense of DWI.  The Laurick opinion generally allows relief from incarceration provided the individual was unrepresented in one or more of the prior DWI cases.  The rationale for the rule is basically that a knowing and voluntary plea cannot be elicited absent representation by an attorney.  An obstacle confronted by NJ DWI Defense Lawyers in obtaining relief under Laurick has always been the resort of some municipal court judges to the five (5) year limitation period for seeking post-conviction relief.

In State v. Bringhurst, the NJ Appellate Division recently held that although the five year time bar to obtaining post-conviction relief applies to Laurick applications, the rule can routinely be overcome by demonstrating that the petition was not the result of neglect.  Insofar as a defendant typically does not realize what occurred or the need for relief until he or she is facing a situation of potential incarceration, this requirement shall customarily be satisfied.  It must be kept in mind, nonetheless, that the Court held that the petitioner for post-conviction reiief must make a showing of probable success under the facts of his case (referred to a prima facie case) before a conviction can be vacated.

We file many post-conviction relief applications every year.  The clarification provided by Bringhurst should provide more predictability and uniformity when we file these applications.

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