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Supreme Court clears man of DWI charge for procedural violation

Citizens accused of crimes in the United State have certain procedural rights. Some of these procedural rights are guaranteed in the U.S. constitution, while others are imbedded in state and federal statutes. Regardless of whether procedural rights are constitutional or statutory in nature, they are designed to ensure a fair application of due process. Due process refers to the formal procedures by which judicial proceedings are carried out.

The New Jersey Supreme Court recently cleared a man of DWI charges following an October 2007 crash that left a police officer injured. The accused was arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated and assault with an automobile, after allegedly leaving a tavern and crashing into a police car. A breath test allegedly revealed that the man's blood-alcohol level had exceeded the state limit. In New Jersey, it is illegal to operate a car with a BAC level over 0.08 percent.

In September 2008, the accused pled guilty to the assault charge, but he was to be tried for the remaining DWI charges in a separate hearing. In a rather strange turn of events, the court did not announce the man's second trial date until March 2010, more than two years after the DWI accident. Due to the long delay, the man's attorney challenged the charges. On appeal the high court found the long wait to be "inordinate and unreasonable," and dismissed the case.

While all procedural rights are taken seriously, the court holds constitutionally guaranteed rights to a particularly high standard. Under the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. constitution, a criminal defendant is guaranteed a number of important due process rights, including the right to a speedy trial by an impartial jury. The violation of these rights, or any other right, such as a criminal defendant's right to an attorney, can result in a mistrial or a dismissal.

New Jersey residents facing criminal charges such as a DUI can face severe penalties. It is important that those individuals make sure their rights are protected and all their defense options are examined and explained to them.

Source: Daily Record, "NJ clears man of DUI because trial not speedy," Jim Walsh, April 2, 2013

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