Bergen County NJ Vehciluar Homicide Defense Attorneys

There should be no surprise that the offense of death by auto is one of New Jerseys most serious offenses. However, what most people do not realize is that what appears on its face to be “just” a terrible car accident can quickly escalate into a felony criminal charge.  Under the law, a defendant will be charged with the crime of death by auto whenever their is enough probable cause to conclude that the said defendant was operating either a vehicle or vessel in a reckless manner and as a result the of that conduct an individual died. Some of the common “reckless conduct” include speeding, weaving in and out of traffic and driving while intoxicated. The governing statute in New Jersey for death by auto is N.J.S.A. 2C:11-5 and as you will see below, typically this is a second degree offense, however, it may be elevated to a first degree offense. The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall has seven criminal defense trial attorneys on staff, making our firm one of the biggest criminal defense firms in the state let alone Bergen County. Of the seven lawyers on staff, three of them have over twenty years of combined prosecuting experience. If you or a loved one has been charged with the offense of death by auto in New Jersey we can help. Here is some important information with regards to N.J.S.A. 2C:11-5.

Death by Auto Lawyers Fort Lee NJ: N.J.S.A. 2C:11-5

The prosecution must prove three material elements beyond a reasonable doubt before an individual can be convicted of death by auto or vessel in New Jersey. They are as follows, first, the prosecution must prove that the alleged defendant operated either motor vehicle or vessel (see below). Secondly, they must prove that the defendant’s operation of the motor vehicle/vessel caused the death of victim. Lastly, that the death of the victim was directly related to the defendant’s reckless operation of the motor vehicle/vessel.

The legislatures have declared that anything which is propelled by muscular power will be considered an “auto or vessel” under this statute. Therefore, a rowboat or canoe without some form of motor would not be considered an auto or vessel under the statute, however, ironically a sailboat, since it is powered by the wind has been determined to fit the definition.

Fines and Penalties if Convicted:

 Potential Incarceration:

As stated above, the offense of death by auto is either a first or second degree crime in New Jersey. A defendant convicted of  a crime of the first degree will face a presumption of incarceration and that period can range anywhere between 10-20 years. A defendant convicted of a crime of the second degree also faces a presumption of incarceration and that time period can range anywhere from 5-10 years. In addition, anybody convicted of death by auto is subject to the No Early Release Act (N.E.R.A.), which would require the defendant  to serve at least 85% of their sentence before they can become eligible for parole.
If the defendant was able to overcome the presumption of incarceration, the legislatures have set for a a provision in the statute to override it. If a defendant is convicted of death by auto and they were  “operating the vehicle under the influence of either an intoxicating liquor, narcotic, hallucinogenic or habit producing drug, on with a blood alcohol concentration at or above 10%, or if the defendant was operating the auto or vessel while his or her driver’s license or reciprocity privilege was suspended or revoked for any violation of the driving while under the influence section of the motor vehicle law, or suspended for reckless driving”, the defendant must be sentenced to a term of imprisonment and the sentence must include a minimum term.

Driver’s License Suspension:

On top of the mandatory prison sentence, if the defendant is convicted of death by auto and that conviction includes the fact that the incident occurred while the defendant was under the influence or the he/she refused to take the breathalyzer test their license must be suspended for at least five years but up to life. Obviously, the period of suspension will not commence until the defendant is released from  any prison sentence imposed.

Forfeiture of Auto or Vessel:

If the defendant is convicted of death by auto in the first degree, the defendant must forfeit the auto or vessel used during the offense. However, the defendant would be entitled to a hearing where if they can establish that the forfeiture would constitute a hardship to the family of the defendant they may be able to avoid the forfeiture.

Paramus NJ Vehicular Homicide Lawyer

The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall has over 100 years of combined experience on staff. The offense of death by auto is a very serious offense, one that carries with it extremely harsh penalties for anyone convicted of it. These consequences will effect not only your life but your families as well. It is imperative that you speak to an experienced criminal defense firm about your rights. If you or someone you know has been charged with the offense of death by auto in New Jersey please call any one of our Bergen County Offices for a free initial consultation.