NJ Supreme Court Prohibits Use of Priors DWI Convictions in Death By Auto Case

On November 28, 2018, the NJ Supreme Court decided State v. Carlos B. Green (A-39-17). In this case, the defendant was indicted for first-degree vehicular homicide while intoxicated and within 1,000 feet of a school under N.J.S.A. 2C:11-5(b)(3)(a). The defendant had prior DWI convictions from 1998 and 2009. The prosecution attempted to introduce the evidence of these priors convictions at trial. Since the defendant was required to complete the Intoxicated Driving Resource Center (IDRC) requirements pursuant to his prior DWI convictions, the prosecution argued that the defendant should have known about the dangers of drunk driving. The prosecution believed that this would help prove that the defendant acted recklessly in the current case.

The defendant appealed arguing that there was no evidence in his current case that he acted recklessly. The defendant also argued that the introduction of his prior convictions into evidence would be unfairly prejudicial.

The Supreme Court agreed with the defendant and ruled that his prior convictions should not be used against him. However, the Court acknowledged that evidence of prior convictions may be used against defendants in other cases and that a balancing test should be used by the trial courts to make the determination whether the evidence is admissible.

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