Vehicular homicide is one of the most serious criminal offenses on the books in New Jersey. It's even more serious if the charges involve driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If that's the case, penalties include mandatory prison time and severe fines.
Vehicular Homicide And Drunk Driving In Ocean County
The most serious charge one can face when relating to a DWI in New Jersey is Vehicular Homicide, also known as a Felony DWI or Death By Auto. The crime of vehicular homicide involves the death of a person other than the driver as a result of the reckless operation of a motorized vehicle whether it is in a car, boat, plane, etc. Reckless means you drove with a conscious disregard for human life and with a substantial risk to the public. When a person drives under the influence of alcohol, illegal drugs or prescription medication, the assumption is they have operated a vehicle with an impairment which in turn results in a reckless manner. The victim may be a pedestrian, another driver or passenger, a passenger in your own car or anyone else in your path. The driver will be charged with a homicide in the second degree in most felony DWI/DUI cases and the charges will be elevated to a first degree if the accidental death occurred in a New Jersey School Zone.
What Constitutes Reckless Driving In NJ?
Proof you fell asleep while driving, or that you drove without sleeping for more than 24 straight hours, will allow a jury to infer you were driving recklessly. Proof you were driving while intoxicated requires that a jury infer that you were driving recklessly. But those conditions aren't exclusive. Juries can find recklessness under other circumstances, too. In a Reckless Driving case the state must prove that the driver knowingly and purposely drove a vehicle with a conscious disregard for people or the public:
"heedlessly in willful or wanton disregard for the rights or safety of others — driver must be consciously aware that his action pose risk to the public"
Penalties For Vehicular Homicide
Generally speaking, vehicular homicide is a crime of the second degree. Similar offenses include aggravated assault, robbery and manslaughter. These second degree crimes are subject to a penalty of five to ten years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000. When alcohol or drugs are involved, vehicular homicide may be charged as a first degree crime, which means it can carry much stiffer penalties. First degree crimes in New Jersey come with prison sentences of 10 to 20 years and fines of up to $200,000. Minimum sentences are imposed for DWI vehicular homicide. Convicted defendants are required to serve at least one third of their sentences, or three years, whichever is greater, without the possibility of parole.
Hire A DWI Lawyer Immediately To Fight This Serious Charge!
If you have been charged with vehicular homicide while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs in Ocean or Monmouth Counties, it's imperative that you obtain qualified legal representation immediately. Without proper legal representation, building a viable defense to DWI homicide is very difficult. If you have been charged with DWI vehicular homicide, you need an experienced attorney to build your case and challenge the evidence against you so you can obtain the best possible result. You may want to consider the attorneys of Villani & DeLuca, P.C. in Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey. These experienced lawyers can help you obtain the best possible outcome under the circumstances of your case.