When can you be charged with vehicular manslaughter in New Jersey?

Following a fatal car accident, as the driver, you could be charged with vehicular manslaughter depending on the circumstances of the crash. In New Jersey, vehicular manslaughter, or vehicular homicide, is a serious crime that can lead to substantial fines and decades of imprisonment if you are responsible for the incident that leads to a victim’s death. If you’ve been charged with this crime, you need a seasoned Bergen County Criminal Defense Attorney to defend your rights and interests to maximize your chances of the best possible outcome. Please continue reading to learn about the potential penalties for being convicted of vehicular manslaughter in New Jersey. 

What is vehicular manslaughter?

Vehicular manslaughter is a crime involving the death of a person other than the driver due to the criminally negligent operation of a motor vehicle. Essentially, drivers who unintentionally cause an accident that results in the deaths of passengers or occupants of other cars can be charged with this crime. It is imperative to understand that this crime does not require an intent to kill. Therefore, if you accidentally caused a fatal car accident, you can be charged with this crime as long as there is evidence that proves you were driving recklessly at the time of the collision. Fortunately, this can be used as an argument to fight a conviction, as you may claim you may have been driving carelessly, but you were not driving recklessly.

Ultimately, recklessness is vital in whether you are convicted of vehicular manslaughter. In New Jersey, a person is driving recklessly when “they drive a vehicle heedlessly, in willful or wanton disregard of the rights or safety of others, in a manner to endanger, or be likely to endanger, a person or property.” The law does not explicitly list actions that constitute reckless driving. However, unsafe driving conduct includes being distracted, drunk, fatigued, excessive speeding, and improper passing/lane changes.

What are the penalties for vehicular manslaughter charges in New Jersey?

In New Jersey, the severity of your penalties for vehicular manslaughter will vary depending on whether there are aggravating factors. Generally, it is charged as a second-degree indictable crime with a sentence of 5 to 10 years of prison time and up to a $15,000 fine. In most cases, prison sentences must be served without parole, serving three years of special parole after release.

In cases involving driving while under the influence (DUI), the court must impose a minimum prison sentence and a driver’s license suspension of five years to life. Additionally, you will face vehicle forfeiture, meaning the vehicles involved in committing the offense will be seized. If it is deemed as a first-degree offense, you can face between 10-30 years of imprisonment, which must be served without parole, requiring five years of special parole after being released, and a fine of up to $20,000.

As you can see, vehicular manslaughter is a serious crime that can upend your life. If you’ve been charged with vehicular manslaughter, you need an experienced Bergen County criminal defense attorney from The Law Office of Carl Spector, who can fight on your behalf to help protect you from an uncertain future.