If a person drives a car recklessly and they cause the death of another person, they may be charged with vehicular manslaughter. In New Jersey, even if the death was not intentional a person can still be found guilty of vehicular homicide. Do not be mistaken, being charged with vehicular manslaughter in Cape May is a serious offense.
If you or someone you know has been charged with vehicular homicide do not wait before contacting an attorney. Call the Cape May vehicular homicide defense lawyers of The Law Offices of John J. Zarych right away at (609) 616-4956. Our phone lines are always open.
Understanding Cape May Vehicular Homicide Charges
Being charged with vehicular homicide can be a scary and intimidating charge, and you may be confused as to what exactly this charge entails. Under the New Jersey Criminal Jury Charges, a criminal homicide constitutes vehicular homicide when it is caused by driving a vehicle or vessel recklessly. The statute upon which this charge is based provides the following:
Criminal homicide constitutes vehicular homicide when it is caused by driving a vehicle (or vessel) recklessly. These charges require that in order for the jury to find the defendant guilty of vehicular homicide, that the State must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- That the defendant was driving a vehicle [or vessel];
- That the defendant caused the death of a person, and
- That the defendant caused such death by driving the vehicle [or vessel]
The charges go on to require that in order to find that the defendant caused the victim’s death, you must find that the victim would not have died but for defendant’s conduct.
While generally, vehicular homicide is a crime of the second degree, there are instances when the court may elevate the charges so that a person may be charged with vehicular homicide in the first degree.
Vehicular Manslaughter Statute and Reckless Driving
As noted above, in order for a person to be charged and convicted of vehicular manslaughter, the state has to prove that the defendant, or you, drove recklessly. The New Jersey Death by Vehicular Homicide statute, which can be found at, N.J.S.A 2C:11-5 provides some examples of actions that may constitute reckless driving. Some of these are:
- If there is proof that the defendant fell asleep while driving or they were driving after they have been without sleep for an excess of 24 hours.
- Proof that the defendant was driving while intoxicated in violation of R.S.39:4-50
- Proof that the defendant was operating a vessel under the influence of alcohol or drugs in violation of section 3 of P.L.1952, c.157 (C.12:7-46)
- Proof that the defendant was operating a hand-held wireless telephone while driving a motor vehicle in violation of section 1 of P.L.2003, c.310 (C.39:4-97.3) may give rise to an inference that the defendant was driving recklessly.
These are just examples that have been provided in this statute and you should be careful to note that nothing in this section shall be construed to in any way limit the conduct or conditions that may be found to constitute driving a vehicle or vessel recklessly.
When can Vehicular Homicide be Charged as a Crime in the First Degree?
Generally, vehicular homicide in Cape May is charged as a crime in the second degree, however, there are certain times when a person can have their charges increased so that they are charged in the first degree. Vehicular homicide is a crime of the first degree if the defendant was operating the auto or vessel while in violation of R.S.39:4-50 or section 2 of P.L.1981, c.512 (C.39:4-50.4a) while:
- On any school property used for school purposes which are owned by or leased to any elementary or secondary school or school board, or within 1,000 feet of such school property;
- Driving through a school crossing as defined in R.S.39:1-1 if the municipality, by ordinance or resolution, has designated the school crossing as such; or
- Driving through a school crossing as defined in R.S.39:1-1 knowing that juveniles are present if the municipality has not designated the school crossing as such by ordinance or
A map or true copy of a map depicting the location and boundaries of the area on or within 1,000 feet of any property used for school purposes which is owned by or leased to any elementary or secondary school or school board produced pursuant to section 1 of P.L.1987, c.101 (C.2C:35-7) may be used in a prosecution.
Penalties for Vehicular Homicide in Cape May, NJ
Anytime a person is facing criminal charges for vehicular homicide in Cape May, they will often ask what are the penalties that they will or can face. Trying to determine what penalties you may face if you have been charged with vehicular homicide is not always clear at the beginning of the case, while you may have been charged with vehicular homicide in the first degree, these charges may be later changed, lowered or dropped altogether. However, some of the penalties that you may face include the following:
Fines – Fines are one penalty that a judge may choose to impose after a person. Specifically, N.J.S.A. 2C:43-2(b) provides that the court may order the defendant to pay a fine alone or in conjunction with imprisonment or probation.
N.J.S.A. 2C:43-3(a) to (h) provides the maximum fines as follows:
- First degree crime: $200,000;
- Second degree crime: $150,000;
- Third degree crime: $15,000;
- Fourth degree crime: $10,000;
- Disorderly person offense: $1000;
- Petty disorderly person offense: $500;
As noted, most vehicular homicide charges are considered to be a second-degree crime, which means that under the statute a person who is convicted of vehicular homicide may face a fine of up to $150,000. However, as also highlighted above, depending on the facts of the case a person that has been convicted of vehicular homicide as a first-degree crime may face a steeper penalty.
Jail time – Jail time is another potential penalty that a person who is tried and convicted of vehicular homicide may face. N.J.S.A. 2C:43-6(a) sets forth the following ordinary terms of imprisonment for first through fourth-degree crimes, while N.J.S.A. 2C:43-8 provides for disorderly persons and petty disorderly persons offense:
- First-degree crime: between ten and twenty years;
- Second-degree crime: between five and ten years;
- Third-degree crime: between three and five years;
- Fourth-degree crime: not to exceed eighteen months;
- Disorderly person offense: a term not to exceed six months; and
- Petty disorderly person offense: a term not to exceed thirty days.
Vehicular homicide charges in Cape May are very serious and according to the guidelines provided above can lead to a potential stay in jail between five to twenty years.
Contact Our Cape May Vehicular Homicide Defense Lawyer Today
When the consequences are this serious, it is absolutely critical to work with a highly experienced Cape May vehicular homicide lawyer like those at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych. For a free and private consultation, call our criminal defense lawyers in Cape May at (609) 616-4956 any time of day or night, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.