Atlantic County Vehicular Homicide Defense Attorneys

If you have been in an accident and someone has died as a result of the accident then you might be charged with one of the most serious crimes in New Jersey, vehicular manslaughter.  This charge is a very serious criminal charge and one that carries severe implications for your life and your families’. While being in a car accident is already a devastating event, this can be greatly increased by the fact that if you are charged and convicted of vehicular homicide you may be facing a lengthy prison sentence, and fines that can cost more than your mortgage.

For over 45 years, the lawyers at the Law Offices of John Zarych have employed their talents and skills to provide a defense to those who have been charged with vehicular homicide.  With a skilled team of lawyers, who are well-versed in New Jersey’s homicide laws they have employed their in-depth understanding of the possible defenses against all murder charges to provide professional representation.  We will challenge the evidence against you, coach and counsel you throughout every step of the legal process, and fight aggressively to have the charges reduced or dismissed.  We represent clients throughout Atlantic County, Cape May County, Ocean County, Camden County, Burlington County, and the surrounding areas, with offices in Atlantic City, Northfield, and Wildwood.

To schedule a free, completely private legal consultation, call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych right away at (609) 616-4956.  Our phone lines are always open.  Se habla español.

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Is There a Difference Between Vehicular Homicide and Murder?

Anytime there are criminal charges there are different words that are thrown around that can confuse someone who has been accused of a crime. That is why it is important to understand the nuances and differences between certain charges. In New Jersey, murder is generally an umbrella term however it has three separate offenses. The one that is relevant to you is most likely death by auto, which is also known as vehicular homicide. However, there are two other offenses that fall underneath the broad term of murder, they are murder and manslaughter.

While each of these charges shares some common features and facts, most notably, is that each of these offenses result from the death of another human being.  Notably murder laws are set forth in N.J.S.A. § 2C:11-3.  Under N.J.S.A. § 2C:11-3, murder is charged in cases where the defendant who is often referred to as the “actor” knowingly or purposefully causes death or serious bodily injury leading to death.  New Jersey defines “serious bodily injury” as any injury, which “creates a substantial risk of death or which causes serious, permanent disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.” Murder is often charged in situations where the defendant causes the death of another in the process of committing or attempting to commit another crime, including the following:

  • Arson
  • Burglary
  • Carjacking
  • Criminal escape
  • Kidnapping
  • Robbery
  • Sexual assault

One of the more common situations for a charge is when there has been a death by auto, or a vehicular homicide. N.J.S.A. § 2C:11-5a, involves causing death “by driving a vehicle or vessel recklessly.” In this context reckless is defined as when a person consciously disregards a substantial risk and their actions are a gross deviation from a reasonable person acting with ordinary care.

What Kind of Driving is Considered Reckless?

When someone has been charged with vehicular manslaughter, the prosecution will have to show that the driver was driving recklessly at the time they caused the accident. Reckless driving is considered a separate offense in New Jersey and is an essential part of the prosecution being able to prove their burden to convict a driver.

  • Excessively speeding – driving in excess of the posted speed limit can lead to fines and tickets. Specifically, NJSA 39:4–98 defines the speed limits in and throughout the state and has provided for the penalties that can be imposed for violating those speed limits. In addition, the legislature has provided that any driver who drives in excess of 15-29 miles per an hour over the speed limit can face up to 4 points on their license. A driver who exceeds the speed limit by more than 29 miles per an hour can face up to five points on his or her license.
  • Driving while intoxicated – Driving while intoxicated is not technically a criminal offense in New Jersey and is considered a serious traffic violation, however, it may be used to show that you or someone else was driving recklessly at the time of the accident.
  • Driving while texting or using a mobile device – While there are well-documented reports that a person should not text and drive because of the elevated risk of being involved in an accident, texting while driving is still prevalent on New Jersey roads.

A recent survey and report released by AT&T in May showed that texting and driving are more common than one might think. This report showed that roughly 70 percent of people who responded to the survey admitted to using their smartphones while driving. Out of all the features that a smartphone can do, texting was most common while driving, with a staggering 61 percent of people who responded reporting that they have read, sent or replied to texts while driving.

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What Are the Penalties for Vehicular Homicide?

Car accidents are traumatic and leave damage not only to the cars but to people as well. Facing a criminal charge of vehicular manslaughter is a serious offense, and the possible penalties match.  With a vehicular homicide charge a person can be facing years and years in prison, face thousands of dollars in fines, be ineligible for parole, and also have a criminal record that will follow them.  The following are the different penalties that a person can face for a vehicular manslaughter charge.

  • Prison – Prison is one of the chief concerns that people have when they have been charged with a crime and they often want to know if they will go to jail. Vehicular homicide is one of the crimes that a person can go to jail for. In fact, there are two separate prison terms that a person may be sentenced to that correlate to the degree of the charge a person or driver is convicted of. If a person is charged and convicted of second-degree vehicular homicide then they may face a prison sentence of anywhere between five to ten years in state prison. As if this wasn’t daunting enough, a person may also be charged with first-degree vehicular homicide, which carries an even harsher sentence and leave a person standing before the judge with a possible sentence of ten to twenty years.
  • Fines – In addition the prison time that a person may face if they are tried and convicted of vehicular homicide, the court is empowered to issue fines upon conviction. The fines for a vehicular homicide charge can be severe. If you are tried and convicted of vehicular homicide in the second degree then you can face a penalty of $150,000. Additionally, if you are charged and convicted of vehicular homicide in the first degree you may be handed a fine for $200,000.
  • Ineligibility for Early Release Parole programs – you are probably familiar with the term parole and early release, however in the event that you are tried and convicted of either vehicular homicide in the first or second degree, then you will not be eligible to take advantage of the No Early Release Act.

In addition to these sentences, a person may have their licenses suspended, be placed on probation, have additional fines imposed, and have additional jail sentences imposed. It is very common for a person who has been charged with vehicular homicide to be charged with other crimes as well. This gives the judge and the prosecutor the ability to impose many other forms of punishment that may increase the jail sentences or the fines.

If you or someone you love was arrested and charged with vehicular homicide in New Jersey, you should strongly consider seeking legal assistance from a criminal defense attorney. In addition to handling legal paperwork, protecting your Constitutional rights, and helping you navigate the complexities of the criminal justice system, your defense lawyer will fight aggressively to have the charges against you dismissed or obtain an acquittal.

Contact an Atlantic City Criminal Defense Attorney for a Free Legal Consultation

The sooner you reach out to the Law Offices of John J. Zarych for legal help, the sooner we can start analyzing your case and formulating a defense strategy. Don’t wait to get trusted, respected legal representation in New Jersey: call our law offices at (609) 616-4956 today. Our line is always open, including nights, weekends, and holidays.