The fate of a driver can turn in a moment when there is an accident. If drunk driving is suspected for causing a crash, injuries or death, legal and personal penalties can be severe.

Charges against a Parsippany woman involved in a fatal pedestrian accident were elevated from second-degree vehicular homicide to first-degree aggravated manslaughter. Prosecutors claim the 32-year-old was drunk when she struck and killed an auto repair shop owner standing next to his truck in East Hanover.

In addition to the more serious charge, the driver is accused of careless, reckless and drunk driving. The woman allegedly violated several traffic laws near the first block of Ridgedale Avenue, including driving an unregistered vehicle with bad tires.

According to Morris County prosecutors and investigators, the intoxicated driver swerved a 2008 Toyota Camry into a man who was standing at the side of a pickup truck. The truck was parked on the street in a designated parking spot just around 1:50 p.m. on a Saturday afternoon.

Prosecutors say the Camry hit and killed the 49-year-old victim and continued to roll down the avenue for an additional 60 feet, smashing the Toyota into other vehicles parked in a lot.

The accused drunk driver was taken into custody and placed in the Morris County Correctional Facility on $100,000 bail. An option for the suspect to pay 10 percent of the amount for release was denied. As Morris County authorities increased the severity of the charges, bail was increased to $400,000.

The initial charge of DWI vehicular manslaughter made the day after the crash was amended on Monday by prosecutors. If convicted of the upgrade manslaughter charge, the suspected drunk driver could face a maximum prison term of 30 years.

A spokesman for the prosecutor’s office stated that the upgraded charge was “appropriate” according to information provided by accident investigators and a legal review of the ongoing investigation.

Source: Chatham Patch, “Prosecutor: Drunk Driver Kills East Hanover Man,” May 06, 2012