In New Jersey, causing the death of another person while operating a vehicle can lead to serious criminal charges. This article covers New Jersey's vehicular homicide laws and the penalties you'll face for a conviction.
In New Jersey, a person can be convicted of "vehicular homicide" (sometimes called "vehicular manslaughter") for causing the death of another person by operating a vehicle or boat recklessly.
A person operates a vehicle or boat recklessly by consciously disregarding a "substantial and unjustifiable risk." In other words, the person knows the manner of driving or boating poses a significant danger to others but decides to do it anyway.
If the prosecution proves certain circumstances, the jury can—but doesn't have to—infer the defendant was operating the vehicle or boat recklessly. These include:
Some of these circumstances can also increase the penalties for a vehicular homicide conviction. (See below.)
A driver can't be convicted of vehicular homicide unless there's proof that the reckless driving was a cause of the victim's death. It's not enough to merely show the defendant drove recklessly and someone died—there needs to be a link between the reckless driving and the death.
The consequences of a vehicular homicide conviction depend on the circumstances. However, the possible penalties for each type of offense are described below.
In most cases, vehicular homicide is a second-degree crime. A conviction generally carries between five and ten years in prison and up to $150,000 in fines. However, the offender may become eligible for parole release prior to completing the entire prison sentence.
Defendants who commit vehicular homicide while intoxicated or on a license that was suspended for a DWI or BWI are guilty of a second-degree crime and subject to the standard penalties (see above.) However, these offenders additionally face a minimum prison term of at least three years. An offender can't become eligible for parole until the minimum term is complete. Defendants who were intoxicated while committing vehicular homicide also face a license suspension of five years to life.
Vehicular homicide committed within 1,000 feet of a school or in a school crossing is considered an aggravated offense. Aggravated vehicular manslaughter is a first-degree crime. Anyone convicted faces a ten-to-20-year prison sentence and up to $200,000 in fines.
Vehicular homicide is a serious crime in New Jersey. If you've been arrested for vehicular homicide—or any other crime—get in contact with a criminal defense attorney right away. The facts of every case are different. An experienced defense attorney can explain how the law applies to the facts of your case and help you decide on the best plan of action.