A separate form of manslaughter offense arises in New Jersey when death results from operation of an automobile, boat or other form of motor vehicle. The related charge, which is captioned Death by Auto or Vessel (a.k.a. vehicular homicide or vehicular manslaughter), is contained at N.J.S. 2C:11-5. A violation of this law is, at a minimum, a second degree crime and, in some cases, a first degree crime. What this means is that someone can be sentenced to twenty (20) years in prison under 2C:11-5. If someone was killed in a car accident and you are being accused of acting reckless or alcohol or drugs were involved, give us a call. Our team of defense attorneys includes former prosecutors who are not only highly experienced in handling vehicular homicide charges but also have considerable exposure to what is involved in defending allegations of driving while intoxicated (“DWI”). Let us put our 100 plus years of collective knowledge and skill to work for you so that the very best outcome can be reached in the defense of the death by auto charge. Take advantage of a free initial consultation by calling our Newark Office at 973-710-1520. We have extensive experience representing clients charged with death by auto in towns like Newark, Cedar Grove, Montclair, Bloomfield, East Orange, Belleville, Nutley and Fairfield.
Death By Auto Defense Lawyers, Newark NJ
In order to find an individual guilty of death by auto, a jury must find that the accused consciously disregarded a substantial risk of death by operating his/her motor vehicle in the manner complained of. This standard is, quite clearly, higher than mere negligence and requires some level of recognition of the relatively high risk associated with the operation. N.J.S. 2C:11-5 states, however, that this level of recklessness is inferred when a motorist operates a motor vehicle while intoxicated (i.e. DWI/DUI), while under the influence of drugs, or after not sleeping for more than 24 consecutive hours. There are three (3) elements that must be established in order for someone to prove a vehicular homicide charge, including that the defendant: (1) operated an automobile, other motor vehicle or vessel/boat; (2) caused the death of the victim; and (3) the accident was the result of the defendant’s recklessness.
How Does The State Prove Intoxication or Impairment from Drugs?
The typically scenario for proving intoxication in a death by auto case is by blood instead of breath test. The reason is because police in NJ are supposed to draw blood whenever someone is injured in an accident involving serious personal injury or death. There are strict rules on how the blood is to be drawn and tested, and our attorneys have decades of experience challenging blood tests and related laboratory reports in the context of DWI and other proceedings. And when the substance involved is drugs, the proofs become even more complicated for the state. There must not only be a laboratory test, whether by blood or urine, that demonstrates the presence of drugs in the motorist’s system at the time of the accident but also testimony from an expert that the drugs caused impairment. The expert needed is referred to as a Drug Recognition Expert and this specially trained police officer must follow a strict evaluation protocol that is designed to determine whether someone is impaired by some form of controlled dangerous substance (“CDS”).
What Are The Penalties That Apply Under N.J.S. 2C:11-5 for Death by Auto?
The jail and other penalty exposure is significant for someone found guilty of vehicular homicide. An individual is subject to a second degree crime prison term of 5-10 years if they are convicted of death by auto. The jail term is enhanced to 10-20 years for first degree death by auto, if the accident occurs in a school zone or designated school crossing, or in a school crossing when juveniles are present. Since death by auto falls under the No Early Release Act (“NERA”), an individual is required to serve 85% of their jail sentence before they are eligible parole. The motorist’s drivers license must be suspended for at least 5 years and as much as life, if he/she was operating while intoxicated, under the influence of drugs, or if they refused a breath test.
Newark NJ Vehicle Homicide Lawyer
A death by auto/vehicular homicide charge is extremely serious. The potential prison time is substantial and the vast majority of the time must be served. You definitely therefore need to retain an experienced homicide attorney if you are facing a death by auto offense. Lawyers at our firm who are skilled in the defense of vehicular homicide are available now to assist you at 973-710-1520.