Death by Auto Charges: Why You Need a Criminal Defense Lawyer
To say that life is fragile is an understatement. In fact, no one needs a grim reminder when an evening of fun turns tragic. If you are facing death by auto charges, you undoubtedly wish you could turn back time. Personal grief becomes intertwined with the uncertainties that lie ahead for you.
Never once in your life did you think you’d need a criminal defense lawyer. After all, you basically follow all the rules. Often, vehicular homicide or manslaughter charges also correspond to drunk driving allegations. However, that wasn’t the case with you. Nor, does it seem to be relevant in a Sussex County accident that recently grabbed media attention.
News stories tell the unfortunate tale of a New Jersey teen driver now charged with several traffic violations and criminal offenses. Sadly, the 17-year-old was behind the wheel in the heartbreaking accident that took the life of one of his friends.
From all reports, it appears that a group of four teens decided to visit the Turtle Back Zoo on the Saturday following their prom. The fatal crash occurred on the way home when the vehicle they were traveling in went off the road. Authorities pronounced one of the female passenger dead at the scene.
Charges arising from this particular accident include several tickets for traffic violations. Among them are charges associated with New Jersey’s Graduated Driver License Program. For one, teen drivers are permitted to have only one passenger while operating motor vehicles in New Jersey.
As he deals with the loss of his friend, the high school youth also faces criminal complaints alleging death by auto and assault by auto.
The Law on Death by Auto Charges
The law regarding death by auto appears in NJSA 2C:11-5. Notably, this section of the law includes death by vessel. This means you could face these same charges if you are involved in a fatal boating accident.
The first line of the statutory language provides some valuable insight. It says that “criminal homicide constitutes reckless vehicular homicide when it is caused by driving a vehicle or vessel recklessly.”
If you’re accused reckless vehicle homicide, there’s a good chance you also received a ticket for reckless driving. In the meantime, any of the following proofs add to allegations that you were driving recklessly:
- Driving while asleep or sleep deprived.
- DWI of either drugs or alcohol.
- Operating a hand-held wireless device while driving.
- Failing to maintain a lane.
Truth be told, the law leaves it open as far as what constitutes reckless driving when it comes to a fatality. Law enforcement authorities may charge you other offenses they feel prove you were operating your vehicle recklessly.
Penalties for Death by Auto
As you might imagine, New Jersey laws consider death by auto a serious offense. That said, the law assesses penalties based on a variety of factors.
Vehicular homicide associated with drunk driving carries the steepest penalties. In fact, if you are found guilty of reckless vehicular homicide near a school or school crossing area, you face penalties associated with a first-degree crime.
What does that mean exactly? The court could sentence you to up to twenty years in prison for a first-degree criminal conviction. Other penalties, such as fines may also come into play.
Situations involving death by auto represent a tragedy for multiple parties. There’s no doubt you never intended to get into an accident and take a life. When you retain an experienced criminal defense attorney, you’ll also want someone who understands your circumstances.
We can help you. At the Law Offices of Anthony Carbone, we have over three decades of years of criminal defense experience. Contact our offices to schedule an attorney to discuss your individual situation.