Drunken Driving Penalties Toughen Up For Drivers Who Kill People In New Jersey

TRENTON – According to a bill that was signed Friday by Gov. Chris Christie, drunk drivers who kill people in New Jersey will be required to serve a prison sentence of at least three years after being convicted of homicide.

The new bill, known as Ralph and David’s Law, has been put in place to create third-degree strict liability homicide in cases where a drunk driver causes death of another person by an automobile, or by operating a boat while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Short stings in jail will no longer be an option for drunk drivers facing a homicide conviction in New Jersey.

Ralph and David’s Law was named for David Heim and Ralph Politi Jr. Their cases highlighted the loopholes present in New Jersey’s drunken driving laws.

13-year-old David of Hampton was killed in an accident that took place on Route 206 back in 2014. He was hit by a drunken driver while crossing Route 206. The motorist was not charged with vehicular homicide. Instead, he was convicted of drunk driving and was sentenced to only 30 days in jail.

The other victim, Politi, was killed in 2012 by a drunk driver. Politi was an East Hanover business owner and community activist. He was standing by his parked pickup truck when a drunk driver swerved out of her lane and hit him. The driver was charged with aggravated manslaughter and vehicular homicide. In March of 2016, the driver was found not guilty.

The bill was passed in response to the uproar caused due to light sentences which were given to drunken drivers after they caused serious accidents, including fatalities, in New Jersey. In most cases, the only charges faced by offenders in such cases were that of drunken driving, which carry a maximum penalty of up to 30 days in jail.

Most third-degree crimes do not require the offender to serve prison time for a first offense. However, if convicted, Ralph and David’s Law calls for mandatory incarceration of up to five years.

Depending on the circumstances, the new law will allow prosecutors to charge offenders with reckless vehicular homicide or strict liability vehicular homicide. The latter would involve negligence on the part of the driver or boat operator.

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Matthew V. Portella

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The Law Office of Matthew V. Portella, LLC. is a full service law firm where attorneys with their extensive experience provide strong & Aggressive defense against DWI/DUI & Criminal cases.