Death by Auto
Monmouth County NJ Vehicular Homicide Attorneys
Have you been charged with Death by Auto in Monmouth County? If so, it is essential that you contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. The potential ramifications if convicted are life changing. Depending on the underlying facts, anyone convicted of this offense will be facing anywhere from five (5) up to twenty (20) years in a State Prison. Pursuant to NJSA 2C:11-5, a person will be charged with death by auto, also known as vehicular homicide, if the State alleges that their reckless operation of a motor vehicle resulted in the death of another. As you will see below, “reckless operation” is extremely vague and it can include a variety of potential conduct, including but not limited excessive speeding, driving while intoxicated and even using a hand-held wireless device. The vagueness of the statute has proven to be problematic for the prosecution over the years. In fact, in 2017, legislation (NJSA 2C:11-5.3) was passed to better assure that those accused being involved in alcohol/drug related fatal accident, would be held responsible. In other words, driving while intoxicated is not “per se” reckless conduct.
If you or a loved one has been accused of death by auto, leaving the scene of a fatal accident, assault by auto, endangering the welfare of a child, eluding or driving while intoxicated, in Monmouth County, Proetta & Oliver can help. The Country as a whole but especially New Jersey has become really tough on those accused of being involved in a fatal accident as a result of recklessness. If you have found yourself in this unfortunate situation and would like to discuss your options with one of our Monmouth County criminal defense lawyers, then please contact our Middletown office at 732.858.6959. We serve all of Monmouth County, including towns like Howell, Tinton Falls, Eatontown, Middletown, Freehold, Wall Township, Asbury Park, Ocean Township, Atlantic Highlands, Colts Neck, Manalapan and Hazlet. As always, our initial consultations are free of costs. So, if you have any questions whatsoever, please do not hesitate to call.
Facing a Death By Auto Charge in New Jersey?
Death by auto charges will be governed by NJSA 2C:11-5. As touched upon above, willful conduct on behalf of the Defendant is not required to be convicted of this offense. The State only needs to establish that the Defendant was acting recklessly. NJSA 2C:11-5 simply states that “criminal homicide constitutes vehicular homicide when it is caused by driving a vehicle or vessel recklessly”. To be convicted of this offense, the prosecution will be to establish the following elements:
- That the Defendant was operating a vehicle and/or vessel;
- That the Defendant caused the death of another; &
- That the Defendant caused such death by driving the vehicle and/or vessel recklessly.
Unless operation is an issue, more often than not, the key to defending this type of offense is attacking alleged reckless conduct. Reckless conduct has been defined as:
- A person acts recklessly when he/she consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that death will result from his/her conduct. The risk must be of such a nature and degree that, considering the nature and purpose of the defendant’s conduct and the circumstances known to him/her, disregard of the risk involves a gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a reasonable person would observe in the defendant’s situation. In other words, … the defendant was aware that he/she was operating a vehicle [or vessel] in such a manner or under such circumstances as to create a substantial and unjustifiable risk of death to another. The State must also prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant consciously disregarded this risk and that the disregard of the risk was a gross deviation from the way a reasonable person would have conducted himself/herself in the situation.
An inference may be drawn that the Defendant was acting recklessly if the prosecution establishes that:
- The Defendant fell asleep while driving;
- The Defendant was driving after failing to sleep for a period in excess of 24 consecutive hours;
- The Defendant was operating while using a hand-held wireless device.
An inference shall be drawn that the Defendant was acting recklessly if the prosecution establishes that:
- The Defendant was driving while intoxicated or driving under the influence of drugs.
Also, if the facts warrant such, a Defendant can also be charged with Aggravated Manslaughter pursuant to NJSA 2C:11-4 as well.
How Much Jail Time is there for a Vehicular Homicide Charge in NJ?
Death by auto will be considered a crime of the second degree provided it is not to alleged that the Defendant was driving under the influence in a school zone at the time of the incident. If that is to occur, the charges will be upgraded to a crime of the first degree. A second degree felony is punishable by anywhere from five to ten years in a State Prison and a fine up to $150,000. If it is determined that the Defendant was driving under the influence at the time of the incident, a license suspension ranging from five years to life must be imposed. A crime of the first degree is punishable by anywhere from ten to twenty years in a State Prison and a fine up to $200,000 may be imposed. Both degrees fall under the No Early Release Act (NERA), which in essence requires a Defendant to serve at least 85% of their sentence before they can become eligible for parole.
Vehicular Homicide Lawyer in New Jersey
Proetta & Oliver is a Monmouth County based criminal defense firm that represents those accused of crimes ranging from minor traffic violations up to death by auto charges. If you or a loved one has been accused of a crime like Death by Auto in Monmouth County, in towns like Marlboro, Freehold, Matawan, Aberdeen, Belmar, Asbury Park, Howell, Upper Freehold, Eatontown, West Long Branch or Highlands, it is crucial that you speak to a lawyers as soon as possible about your options. To speak to one of our criminal defense attorneys today, please contact our office at 732.858.6959 or you can try contacting us online.