An appeals court has ruled that the 2004 state law known as Michael’s Law does not allow repeat DWI offenders to serve alternative sentences upon conviction. Michael’s Law that honors a 19-year-old victim of a drunk driver strengthened sentencing guidelines by imposing a mandatory 180-day jail sentence on people convicted of drunk driving three or more times.

The issue of alternative sentences for repeat offenders came under review because of cases like a restaurant owner who was allowed to serve his 180 days in county jail two days at a time while he continued to run his restaurant Wednesday through Sunday. After being arrested for hitting two parked cars, the man eventually entered a guilty plea for his third DWI, careless driving and leaving an accident scene.

The appeals court judge said that the law specifically took alternative sentences, like outpatient treatment or work release programs, off the table for repeat offenders. The municipal judge who allowed the restaurant owner to have periodic releases from jail had not interpreted the law correctly during sentencing.

Because a conviction for drunk driving could involve jail time and high fines, a person arrested for DWI might benefit from legal representation. An attorney might form a defense if law enforcement failed to administer a sobriety test correctly. Even if evidence cannot be successfully challenged, an attorney might succeed in negotiating a reduced charge and a lenient sentence. The advocacy of an attorney might also enable someone to regain driving privileges as soon as legally possible.

Source: NJ, “Judge let DWI offender do jail time on days off from work, court say that’s a no-no“, Thomas Moriarty, July 17, 2018