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Assault By Auto – NJSA 2C:12-1C

Defense Attorney for NJ Assault By Auto Charges

As an experienced criminal defense, DUI attorney, and former prosecutor, I have successfully defended a variety of different assault by auto charges. Most of these cases involved an alcohol related accident where someone was hurt. In New Jersey, the “Assault by Auto” charge is a subcategory of assault that was created in order to govern any assaults that involve automobiles.  According to New Jersey’s Statute N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1c. if you are in an accident where your vehicle collides with another car or person, and someone is hurt, the driver can be charged with the Assault by Auto offense. Even though alcohol is a common factor in these types of cases, it is not required. 

This Assault by Auto category includes its own legal elements and specific punishments. And individuals that are charged with this crime can face huge penalties, fines, and even significant jail time. If you or a family member are facing these types of charges, it is imperative to hire a skilled criminal defense attorney to help your case and protect your individual rights. Attorney Anthony J. Vecchio has defended, prosecuted, and appealed cases ranging from Municipal Court matters to severe crimes involving drug offenses and murder. He is ready to put his skills, tools, and experience to work for you by providing you with the personalized and effective representation that you need during these critical times.

Elements of “Assault by Auto”

In New Jersey, in order to be convicted with Assault by Auto, the prosecutor needs to prove the following elements:

  • The defendant was driving a vehicle.
  • A victim was caused bodily injury or serious bodily injury.
  • The defendant caused the victim this injury by driving their vehicle recklessly. 

What is Required for the State to Prove these Charges

For the state to prove these Assault by Auto charges, the prosecutor needs to show that the defendant committed the above elements. In addition, they also need to determine the victim would not have been injured if it was not for the defendant’s conduct. 

The type of charges that the state will bring against the driver will depend on not only if the defendant was impaired by alcohol or drugs when the accident happened. But they will also look into the harm that the victim endured as a result of the accident. This is extremely important as the severity of the punishments can be influenced by the extent of the harm.

  • Bodily Injury refers to any illness, physical pain, or impairment of physical condition.
  • Serious Bodily Injury implies severe or permanent disfigurement, substantial risk of death, or protracted loss or impairment of a body part. 

What are the Different Penalties for Assault by Auto?

In New Jersey, even though these assault charges are often related to motor vehicle drivers, they can also apply to boat drivers. When determining the penalties involved in an Assault by Auto offense, it is essential to understand that this assault can fall within different grades (N.J.S.A 2C:12-1(C)) of a criminal offense, including the following: 

Disorderly Person Offense

A disorderly person offense can occur when an auto assault results in someone’s “bodily injury.” Any type of injury satisfies this threshold, including even a minor cut or wound.

A Disorderly Person Offense conviction can include six months in jail, probation, penalties, and fines up to $1,000. 

Fourth-Degree Charge

If an individual operates their vehicle in a reckless way that results in someone’s “serious bodily injury,” they can be convicted of a Fourth-Degree assault by automobile. The difference between a fourth-degree charge and a disorderly person offense depends on the extent of the injury that occurs.

A Fourth-Degree conviction can trigger eighteen months of jail time, probation, penalties, and fines up to $10,000.

Third-Degree Charge

When a person is involved in an accident that resulted from driving while intoxicated (DWI) and, as a consequence, causes “serious bodily injury,” they can be convicted of third-degree assault by automobile. 

A Third-Degree conviction involves jail time ranging from three to five years and includes fines up to $15,000. 

Second-Degree Charge

A Second-Degree auto assault charge is very similar to a Third-Degree charge. Both of the charges involve a serious bodily injury that results from a DWI- related accident. However, the assault is elevated to a Second-Degree charge when it is committed in a school zone or within 1,000 feet (0.3 km) of school property. 

A Second-Degree assault conviction involves jail time that can range between five and ten years and also includes fines up to $150,000. In addition, the second-degree conviction not only carries with it an 85% period of parole ineligibility, but it also provides a presumption of imprisonment. This means that the judge can sentence a defendant to prison even if they do not have a prior record.

Potential Defenses to an Assault By Auto Charge

Assault by Auto is a serious conviction. As you can see, the criminal consequences of this charge involve significant fines and jail time, which can ultimately have a negative influence on your career, your relationships, and your everyday life. To fight this charge, a skilled defense attorney will need to review the case and try to prevent the state from proving all of the three elements required. 

So how does an attorney accomplish this goal? By dismantling arguments that indicate the victim was injured, or by going after the prosecution’s “recklessness” arguments and disproving intent. Additionally, the attorney can argue against the state’s ability to prove impairment by their use of standardized field sobriety testing and their chemical breath analysis. A knowledgeable defense attorney understands the best defense against a DUI conviction is to go directly after these types of tests, especially if they are the only conclusive evidence that the state has.

Finally, in some situations, the best defense against an Assault by Auto charge is through negotiation. Your attorney will work with the prosecutor and try to get the charges against you lessened to a lower offense, which can significantly reduce the severity of the penalties against you. In addition, they can also try pursing diversionary programs like pre-trial intervention, which can result in dismissal of the charges. 

Assault by Auto New Jersey Defense Law Firm

If you or a loved one have been charged with Assault by Auto, do not wait any longer. Contact the Law Office of Anthony J. Vecchio today to get your questions answered and receive the legal help that you need. 

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    “Mr. Vecchio was very thorough and efficient. His team was accommodating and the ultimate outcome was better than expected. Mr. Vecchio kept me up to date with every detail via emails and text messages. An all around good guy and family man.”
    “I have been working with Anthony on my husband’s out of state case for a few days now. He is punctual and doesn’t make you feel like you are asking too many questions in such a stressful time. He knows exactly what is happening before you even tell him. He is very professional and treats you like a human at the same time with the most respect.”
    "Anthony was instrumental in making the worst time in my life manageable. He's smart, intuitive and most of all he gave me peace of mind. I would recommend him to anyone looking for a sharp, progressive attorney who knows how to navigate the law."

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