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Gusciora to Introduce Bill Making Third DWI a Felony

In light of the New Jersey Supreme Court’s ruling last week that a defendant is not entitled to a jury when facing a third or subsequent charge of driving while intoxicated, State Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer/Hunterdon) is proposing legislation that would make a third DWI a felony, with no jury trial or pre-trial intervention eligibility.

The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled 5-1 that defendant James Denelsbeck, did not have the right to a trial by jury when facing 180 days of incarceration for his third DWI offense. His request for a jury trial was previously denied by a municipal court and the ruling was affirmed by the Superior Court and the Appellate Division.

“Contrary to popular perception, there is not a universal right to trial by jury. Pursuant to the 6th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, a criminal defendant only has a right to a trial by jury if the potential sentence exceeds six months of incarceration. If you are even on par with a six month sentence, you will lose the possibility of being judged by your peers,” said Gusciora, who also serves as the municipal prosecutor in Princeton and a few other area municipalities.

“New Jersey classifies DWIs as a motor vehicle violation and not a criminal offense, which downplays the severity of someone’s decision to drive drunk and endanger themselves and innocent bystanders,” Gusciora said. “Subsequent drunk driving offenses should be treated as a premeditated violent crime considering that an individual with a previous history of driving drunk knows the potential violent dangers of their actions.”

Gusciora plans to introduce the legislation at the next General Assembly quorum scheduled for May 19.

Krystal Knapp

Krystal Knapp is the founding editor of Planet Princeton. She can be reached via email at editor AT planetprinceton.com. Send all letters to the editor and press releases to that email address.

  • SFB

    Reed Gusciora grandstanding again. This proposal is pointless. The NJ Supreme Court already ruled that repeat DWI drivers don’t have the right to a jury trial. NJ law is the harshest in the nation on this point. Gusciora should instead look at his own decisions: as local prosecutor, he let off Princeton University Professor Imani Perry with a slap on the wrist, after she was caught speeding 68-mph on a local Princeton road. Gusciora is no defender of safe streets. Only interested in getting his name in the local press.

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