After Bergen County DWI Conviction Appeal, Judge Reduces Sentence
In a recent case in Bergen County, a man was unsuccessful in seeking to have his DWI conviction overturned; however, the presiding judge did decide to reduce his sentence after reviewing the case.
The defendant, Pyong Chun Hwang, was initially arrested by an officer from the Edgewater Police Department on October 29, 2013 after consuming alcohol at the Crowne Plaza in Palisades Park. According to testimony from a friend of Hwang who was present on the night in question, he had called a car service on Hwang’s behalf after determining that Hwang was not in a condition to operate a vehicle.
Hwang admitted during his trial in Edgewater Municipal Court on April 24th that he did not have a clear recollection of the sequence of events; however, witnesses said that he left Crowne Plaza riding in the passenger side of his truck, with another individual driving the car. After falling asleep, the defendant says that he was awakened 16 minutes later and thought he had been kidnapped. Hwang testified to struggling with the driver, at which time he or she allegedly drove into the parking lot of a Chase Bank and fled the scene.
Edgewater Detective Sergeant Steve Tibus reportedly witnessed Hwang urinating by the side of his pickup truck after initially noticing him driving alone on River Road. Sergeant Tibus also said that he saw the same car drive over the curb while entering the parking lot of a Chase Bank at approximately 9:30 p.m, where Hwang was arrested.
Although the circumstances of the incident remain unclear, Hwang was ultimately convicted of driving while intoxicated, with a reported blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.21%. Due to the fact that this was his first DWI offense, he was sentenced to a 1-year driver’s license suspension, as well as a mandatory ignition interlock device to be installed in his vehicle for a period of 1 year upon license restoration.
Superior Court Judge James J. Guida, who recently reviewed the case in Bergen County Superior Court, stated that Hwang’s account of the events was not believable, ultimately deciding not to overturn the conviction. However, Judge Guida did reduce Hwang’s license suspension from 1 year to 7 months, as well as the required period for the ignition interlock from 1 year to 6 months. The Judge deemed this a reasonable sentence for a first DWI offense.
Considering the facts of the case, Hwang was initially charged with what is classified as a second-tier DWI first offense. According to N.J.S.A. 39:4-50, first offenses for DWI are divided into two categories: those involving a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of between 0.08% (the legal limit) and 0.10%, and those involving a BAC over 0.10%.
The penalties associated with a second-tier offense (BAC over 0.10%) include a maximum 1-year license suspension and up to 1 year mandatory ignition interlock device. With this in mind, Hwang was initially sentenced to the maximum penalties applicable to these charges. Judge Guida’s decision altered this significantly, ultimately sentencing Hwang to the minimum terms detailed under this statute.
For more information pertaining to this case, access the following article: DWI conviction upheld for Edgewater man who said he thought he’d been kidnapped