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NJSA 2C:11-5 Death By Auto Charges

Lawyer for NJ Death By Auto Charges

If you have been arrested in New Jersey for death by auto by recklessly causing the death of another person, these charges should not be taken lightly. While in some cases defensible, this charge can expose you to years of imprisonment and a life-altering future. It is critical in this instance that you are represented by a highly experienced criminal defense attorney.

Death By Auto or Vessel

Death by Auto or Vessel also referred to as vehicular homicide, is a criminal charge in New Jersey that results when an individual drives their motor vehicle or vessel recklessly and causes another individual’s death. If charged with this crime, the accused can face being charged with Vehicular Homicide or Aggravated Manslaughter.

According to NJSA 2C:11-5, for a person to be charged with vehicular homicide, the state first needs to prove that the driver acted recklessly or with a conscious disregard of an unjustifiable or a substantial risk that the death would result from their driving conduct. Usually, the state will infer that the driver was driving recklessly when there is a death caused by a motor vehicle or in the following situations also outlined in the statute, including:

  • Driving while intoxicated (drugs or alcohol)
  • Operating a hand-held wireless telephone
  • Driving after 24 consecutive hours without sleep or feeling excessively drowsy behind the wheel
  • Failed to maintain their lane

Potential Criminal Punishments 

Second-Degree Felony

Death by Auto or Vessel is considered a second-degree crime (Second-Degree Felony) in New Jersey. If convicted, there is a “presumption of incarceration,” and sentencing can range anywhere between five and ten years. Additionally, the court will also impose a minimum prison term which will be the greatest of three years or one-third to one-half of the original sentence if: 

  • You refused to submit to a breath test.
  • You violated the DWI/DUI laws in New Jersey.
  • You were driving with a revoked driver’s license.

Put simply, if you are convicted of Death by Auto or Vessel, you can be spending five years in prison without being eligible for parole. 

First-Degree Felony

In certain circumstances, Death by Auto or Vessel can result in a first-degree felony, usually, if you directly violate the DWI/ DUI laws and if the accident occurs in the following areas:

  • School Zone
  • School Property
  • Any property used by the School
  • In New Jersey, it makes no difference if the school was closed, if you were not aware, the location was a school zone, or if there were no children at the crossing.

If convicted of this first-degree felony, there is also a “presumption of incarceration,” where you can be sentenced to a period ranging from ten to twenty years, and the court will impose a minimum prison time that is greater of three years or between one-third or one-half of the initial sentence.

No Early Release Act

Both of these felonies- first and second -degree violations of vehicular homicide fall under the No Early Release Act (NERA) statute, which requires those convicted to serve up to 85% of their sentence before they can become qualified for parole. 

Other Repercussions

Anyone found guilty of Death by Auto or Vessel can be subject to lengthy license suspensions or permanent license suspensions, hefty fines ranging up to $200,000, and following their incarceration, they can be restricted to operating a motor vehicle for at least five years.

Potential Defenses

As you can see, Death by Auto or Vessel is a serious crime with severe punishments. However, working with an experienced New Jersey defense lawyer can provide you with the help you need to create the strongest defenses. Some of these potential defenses include:

  • Lack of Probable Cause: One of the first potential defenses includes evaluating the accident and figuring out whether or not the police had actual probable cause to obtain a breathalyzer test or to bring you in and take your blood. 
  • Excluding Incriminating Evidence: Where there is a blood test indicating that you were driving with an elevated blood- alcohol level, your defense attorney can argue that it should be excluded because the evidence was obtained in breach of your constitutional rights or the police did not comply with the correct procedures to obtain this evidence. 
  • Intoxication Not the Cause of the Accident: Another possible defense is arguing that the intoxication was not the specific legal cause of the accident, which resulted in another individual’s death. Instead, there was an independent event that was outside your control that resulted in the death. 
  • Reckless Driving Not Due to Alcohol or Drugs: Finally, your defense attorney can show evidence indicating that the reckless driving was not the result of drugs or alcohol, but rather a pre-existing medical condition or a possible medical emergency. 
  • Other Lack of Evidence Defenses: Other legal defenses can include proving questionable interpretation of the test results, the police failing to warn the accused of potential penalties for declining the breath test, or malfunction of the breath test equipment. 

Many times, in these criminal cases, you also have the possibility of accepting a plea deal or proceeding with a criminal trial. Most people know that criminal prosecutions are a lengthy process, yet, what many of them fail to acknowledge is that the outcome is extremely doubtful, given that a jury or a judge will be deciding the outcome of your case. In these instances, your attorney can help you determine whether it is better to accept a plea deal or take your case to trial, and if you proceed with a trial, your attorney can help prepare you for all steps of the process. 

If you or a loved one have been charged with vehicular homicide, you need to obtain knowledgeable and skilled legal representation immediately. That is why do not wait any longer; contact the Law Office of Anthony J. Vecchio today to get the legal help that you need. 

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