Driving While Suspended Conviction Upheld Although DWI Conviction Vacated. State v. Sylvester 437 N.J. Super. 1 (App. Div. 2014)
N.J.S.A. 2C:40-26b makes it a fourth degree offense to drive while one's license is suspended or revoked for a second or subsequent conviction for driving a car while under the influence of alcohol (DWI). In a bench trial before the Law Division on this charge, defendant argued that her second DWI conviction had been voided ab initio by the municipal court when it granted her PCR petition two months after she was indicted for one count of violating N.J.S.A. 2C:40-26b. Thus, defendant argues the State cannot rely on this vacated second DWI conviction to meet its burden of proof under N.J.S.A. 2C:40-26b. The trial court rejected this argument. The Appellate Division affirmed.
It is undisputed that at the time defendant committed this offense, she was aware her driver's license had been revoked by a presumptively valid second conviction for DWI. The court relied on State v. Gandhi, 201 N.J. 161, 190 (2010) to hold that a second DWI conviction vacated through PCR granted by a court after a defendant engages in conduct prohibited in N.J.S.A. 2C:40-26b, cannot be applied retroactively to bar a conviction under this statute.