In New Jersey, vehicular homicide is a criminal charge from causing death by driving a vehicle recklessly. Recklessness can be established from a number of factors including:
- Excessive speeding
- Sleep deprivation
If reckless, distracted driving results in vehicular homicide, drivers could face prison time equivalent to the criminal penalties set in New Jersey.
To convict someone of vehicular homicide, you must prove reckless driving caused the death. If you have been charged with death by auto, it is vital that you speak with an experienced New Jersey vehicular homicide defense attorney who can evaluate your case and prepare a strong defense.
Criminal Penalties for Vehicular Homicide in New Jersey
Vehicular homicide in New Jersey is a second degree crime (aka Second Degree Felony). If convicted of a 2nd degree crime, New Jersey law provides for a “presumption of incarceration” and a sentencing range of between 5 – 10 years in the New Jersey state prison. In addition, the court will impose a minimum prison term between one third and one half of the initial sentence, a term of three years, or whichever term is greater if:
- You directly violated DWI/DUI laws in New Jersey
- You refused to submit a breath sample
- You were driving with a revoked license
Death by auto can also result in a first degree felony if you directly violate DWI/DUI laws in New Jersey and if the accident occured:
- On school property
- In a school crossing
- At any property used by schools
If convicted of a first degree crime or felony, New Jersey law provides for a “presumption of incarceration” and a sentencing range of between 10 – 20 years in the New Jersey state prison. In addition, the court will impose a minimum prison term between one third and one half of the initial sentence, a term of three years, or whichever sentence is greater.
In addition, both first and second degree violations of vehicular homicide fall under a New Jersey statute called the No Early Release Act, also referred to as the NERA or 85 percent statute. This statute requires you to serve 85 percent of your sentence before being eligible for parole. For example, if sentenced to 10 years in the New Jersey state prison, you become eligible for parole after two years, two months and six days. Under the NERA, a sentence of 10 years with the 85 percent statute makes you eligible for parole after eight years, six months and two days.
Anyone convicted of vehicular homicide is also subject to extensive license suspensions, mandatory assessments and exposure to large discretionary fines. Following a jail sentence, the defendant may be restricted from operating a vehicle for at least five years. In other cases, they could incur a permanent license suspension. Fines can range up to $200,000.
Distracted Driving and Cell Phones
If an accident or death occurs from distracted driving, drivers could face civil lawsuits, jail time and even risk losing their driver’s licenses permanently. Texting or talking while driving is punishable by law, specifically in New Jersey. Drivers caught breaking this law will be subject to hefty fines based on the number of offenses:
- First offense: $200 – $400 fine
- Second offense: $400 – $600 fine
- Third offense: $600 – $800 fine, 90-day license suspension and points on your driver’s license
Cell phone convictions may not be expunged. However, if simple negligence such as turning down your radio resulted in an accidental death, you could be charged with a lesser crime.
Rosenberg | Perry & Associates Can Help
If you have been charged with death by auto or vehicular homicide in New Jersey, you are facing criminal charges with significant consequences. Understanding what you are facing and your rights are crucial to deciding how to proceed. Learn about what you can do to protect yourself and minimize your consequences. Call to schedule a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help defend your case.