DWI & Criminal Liability in Vehicular Homicide

Until recently if an individual in New Jersey drove a motor vehicle while legally intoxicated and caused the death of another he or she would be criminally prosecuted under N.J.S.A. 2C:11-5; Vehicular Homicide.

N.J.S.A. 2C:11-5, (now renamed Reckless Vehicular Homicide) criminalizes the act of driving recklessly and causing the death of another. Under this statute, just because a driver is intoxicated does not necessarily mean he or she acted recklessly.

In July of 2017 the New Jersey Legislature enacted N.J.S.A. 2C:11-5.3 Strict Liability Vehicular Homicide.  Under this statute, a person is guilty of a crime of the third degree if he or she causes the death of another while driving a motor vehicle in violation of N.J.S.A. 39:4-50; Driving While Intoxicated.

By enacting this statute, the Legislature eliminated the element of recklessness for the criminal prosecution of a death related to a drunk driving accident.  In other words, if a driver of a motor vehicle is legally intoxicated and a death occurs as a result of his or her operation of the motor vehicle, that driver is criminally liable, there is no requirement to prove recklessness.  If convicted that individual will be exposed to a State Prison Term of up to Five (5) years.

If you have been charged with an alcohol related offense or any other offense under the New Jersey Motor Vehicle or Criminal Code please contact Criminal Law Partner Greg S. Gargulinski, Esq.