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New Jersey Death by Auto Law

Death by auto occurs when a person drives a car recklessly and causes the death of another person. Driving a car while intoxicated is an example of this type of homicide (see New Jersey DWI Laws for details). The driver acted recklessly, or with a conscious disregard of a substantial and unjustifiable risk that death would result from his driving conduct.

Death by auto is a second degree crime punishable by up to 10 years in state prison and a fine up to $200,000. The driver will also be required to serve 85% of his sentence before he is eligible for parole.

Even if a person is charged with manslaughter in criminal court and is acquitted, the deceased’s family may file a wrongful death claim in civil court.

The following table highlights the main provisions of New Jersey's death by auto laws. See also DUI Penalties, Boating Under the Influence, Involuntary Manslaughter Definitions, Involuntary Manslaughter Penalties and Sentences, and Voluntary Manslaughter .

Code Sections N.J. Criminal Code 2C:11-5

Vehicular Homicide

What is Prohibited?
  • Driving an automobile or vessel recklessly and
  • Causing the death of another person.
What is Considered "Reckless Conduct?"

A person acts recklessly when they consciously disregard a substantial risk and their actions are a gross deviation from a reasonable person acting with ordinary car such as being sleep deprived or being impaired by alcohol or drugs.

Civil Case Possible Wrongful Death lawsuit and restitution to the victim's family.
  • Second Degree felony, five (5) to ten (10) years in state prison and a fine that can reach $150,000
  • Driver's license suspension from five (5) years to possible lifetime suspension.

Higher penalties for if the accident has any relationship with schools. This includes taking place in a school zone, at a school crossing, or at any property used by schools. It does not matter if schools were closed, or if there were no children at the crossing. It is not a defense to be unaware that the location was a school zone. Death by auto when related to schools is a first degree offense. The sentence for this crime is 10-20 years.

If you do find yourself facing a death by auto charge, you may wish to contact a New Jersey criminal defense attorney for assistance.

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