New Jersey Imposes Grim Criminal and Civil Penalties for Fatal DWIs

Criminal defendants who drank alcohol, drove and caused innocent deaths have been convicted of serious crimes and sentenced to severe penalties in New Jersey state courts. Some examples from recent news reports:

  • In September 2012, a 29-year-old Paterson man pled guilty to death by auto and vehicular homicide for the death of a 22-year-old woman who had been a passenger in a car the man hit when he allegedly ran a stop sign while drunk. The defendant received a four-year prison sentence. After serving 85 percent of the time, he will be eligible for parole, but it must be served under supervised release for at least five years. His driver's license will be suspended for a decade.
  • In July 2012, a 26-year-old Afghan military veteran pled guilty to driving while intoxicated and assault for a Deptford Township accident he caused when he drove his truck while more than four times over the legal limit, killing a 29-year-old designated driver from Runnemede and injuring two passengers. The defendant was sentenced to six years in prison plus a $300 fine. After serving 85 percent of this sentence, the defendant will be eligible for three years of probation and will not be allowed to drive for the first seven months. He also faces a civil lawsuit.

Unfortunately, in New Jersey drunk driving with its potentially fatal consequences is still all too common. Residents and visitors need to think twice before getting behind the wheel after consuming alcohol; it can mean the literal end to another person's life and the figurative end to that of the drunk driver.

A Clearer Picture of the Problem in New Jersey

State statistics shed light on the state of drunk driving fatalities in New Jersey. While the numbers of fatal motor-vehicle accidents overall have been on a mostly downward trend in recent years, according to the Fatal Accident Investigation Unit of the Division of State Police, there were still 586 fatal New Jersey crashes in 2011, resulting in 627 deaths.

  • About one-third of those killed had alcohol in their bodies.
  • Just over 16 percent of the drivers involved were legally drunk.

New Jersey Fatal DWI Penalties

Criminal sentencing is a complex legal question in most cases, no less in a fatal DWI case. For drunk driving generally, here are some of the penalties that may be imposed; whether they are and the extent of each varies with the circumstances of each incident, including how drunk the driver was.

  • Fines, fees, surcharges
  • Jail
  • Community service
  • Ignition interlock device installation
  • License suspension (New Jersey does not allow conditional driving while suspended)
  • Parole, probation
  • Alcohol education, assessment, treatment
  • License points

Anyone convicted of DWI will have a serious criminal record that could limit future job and housing opportunities. When an alcohol-impaired motorist causes an accident with a fatality, the seriousness of the crime of record will increase. In addition, a convicted drunk driver could also experience difficult personal issues like guilt and remorse, especially when someone was killed.

The best advice is not to drink and drive. New Jersey is serious about drunk driving and anyone accused of DWI should consult an experienced criminal defense lawyer for thorough analysis of the case and a vigorous defense.