Newark, NJ- There is a list of reasons why drinking and driving is a terrible idea. For one, it’s illegal, and a driver could be charged with a DWI which carries a host of troublesome consequences. It also happens to be very dangerous. According to the Centers for Disease Control, there were 1,816 deaths attributed to drunken drivers in New Jersey between 2003 and 2012. That is why members of the New Jersey state Assembly just passed legislation that makes penalties harsher for DWI offenders who cause a traffic fatality.
On May 26th, New Jersey’s Assembly passed bill A.B. 3686, also known as “Ralph and David’s Bill,” named after two people killed in separate drunken driving accidents. Under the legislation, drunk drivers who cause a fatality can be charged with strict liability vehicular manslaughter, which is a third-degree felony. Jail would be mandatory for this third-degree felony conviction, and the sentence can be significant. In New Jersey, a third-degree felony is punishable by a three-year to a five-year jail term. The legislation calls for a fine of up to $15,000.
Under current New Jersey law, jail is not mandatory for a DWI convictions involving a fatal accident. A prosecutor can ask the courts to impose a term of incarceration, but the state’s legal codes don’t make jail a requirement. That is what lawmakers hope to change with the introduction of A.B. 3686.
Assemblywoman Mila Jasey, one of two sponsors of the bill, told the Daily Record, “This legislation will help close that loophole and send a stronger message that we will not tolerate this type of negligent and reckless behavior.”
Mandatory jail time is a serious enough consequence, but “Ralph & David’s Bill” goes further by lessening the burden of proof for the prosecution. Instead of requiring prosecutors to show how the alleged DWI offender’s actions caused the victim’s death, the prosecution just has to prove that an individual was in violation of New Jersey’s DWI laws when the accident occurred, thereby making them guilty of vehicular manslaughter or similar charge. The language of the bill makes it easier for the prosecution to secure a conviction, which is why a person facing such a charge should enlist a DWI lawyer in Newark to work on their defense.
“Ralph and David’s Bill” is the same as a bill introduced in 2014, which failed to become law, so there is a chance the legislation will not become law this time as well.
If you live in Newark, Essex County, or nearby, I can help you build a defense to challenge the prosecution’s case against you, so you have a better chance of avoiding a DWI conviction. I understand the financial, legal and personal consequences of a DWI charge. I’ll use my criminal defense experience to hopefully diminish the immediate and long-term effects of your DWI charges.
Call my office in Newark at 973-453-2009 to schedule a free 15-minute consultation and we can talk about defense strategies. You can count on me, to be honest with you about your case and do whatever I can to see your case has the best possible outcome.