The New Jersey Supreme Court affirmed two lower court rulings making it a crime that endangers public safety if you fail to wear a seat belt.
The ruling arose out of the death of a 16-year-old passenger who was killed in a car crash caused by an 18-year-old who had been “huffing” an aerosol spray can containing a carpet deodorizer while driving. Both the driver and the passenger were not wearing seat belts.
Problematically, no standards specifically limit inhalant intoxication for drivers, so the 18-year-old was never charged for the huffing or being intoxicated due to it.
Instead, New Jersey officers slapped her with the state’s seat belt law.
She was also charged with vehicular homicide, but as part of plea arrangement she pled guilty to the third-degree offense of recklessly causing severe bodily injury to a passenger.
After being sentenced to 180 days in county jail and three years of probation, she appealed.
In her appeal, she contended that her “minor traffic” violation of the seat belt violation could not serve as a basis to support a conviction for recklessly causing severe injury.
However, the New Jersey Supreme Court begged to differ.
The high court concluded that the NJ seat belt law “does protect the community at large and not merely discrete individuals.”
Ultimately, the incident inspired a bill called “Kimmie’s Law,” which would make it a crime for a driver to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of any amount of a prohibited inhalant.
The bill passed the Senate years ago during the 2012-2013 session, but the Assembly never took any action on it.
However, in light of this new ruling, the bill has been reintroduced this legislative session and has referred to the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee.
Among the chemicals that would be prohibited are Difluoroethane, a compound that was found in the driver’s blood sample.
If you recently were charged with a crime in New Jersey, contact Rosenblum Law today at 888-815-3649 for a free consultation.