When someone dies as a result of what New Jersey law defines as “reckless driving,” the state considers it “death by auto” or “vehicular homicide,” which is a second-degree crime. To qualify as reckless, the driver must consciously disregard substantial risk by driving while impaired or sleep-deprived.

What are the consequences if convicted guilty?

New Jersey’s sentencing guidelines dictate those charged with this second-degree felony receive five to ten years in prison and up to a 150,000 fine. You could lose your license for at least five years if convicted.

If the accident happens anywhere associated with a school, the court upgrades vehicular homicide to a first-degree felony, which has an increased prison sentence of 10-20 years. It does not matter if children were present or if a school was in session. Proximity to a school significantly escalates this crime.

You should also be aware that the victim’s family could pursue a civil case. If the family pursues a wrongful death lawsuit, the monetary consequences could be considerably higher in lawyer fees and damages payments.

What can you do as the driver responsible?

While there are clear sentencing guidelines for those convicted, you can mount a strong defense for in this and any criminal case. With a DWI case, you can question the arrest proceedings and the blood and urine testing process as well as the interaction and judgment of the officer on the scene. This is a grave matter, but you have options.