Vehicular homicide (sometimes called vehicular manslaughter) is a term that most people know, but not many fully understand. Years of television and books involving police officers, lawyers, and other members of the legal system have introduced the term into our collective consciousness. However, there are still many misconceptions about what vehicular manslaughter actually means.
What is Vehicular Homicide (Vehicular Manslaughter)?
We all understand what the word “vehicular” means. It obviously involves individuals behind the wheel of a car. However, what does manslaughter mean? Manslaughter involves the killing of another individual, but, unlike murder, it is not done on purpose. Therefore, if someone dies due to poor driving, inattention, or a similar error on the part of a driver, the driver who caused that death might have committed manslaughter.
Here is when the confusion sets in. Understandably, killing someone accidentally is not as bad as killing someone purposefully. Nevertheless, that does not mean the person responsible is off the hook. We all make choices when we drive. If those choices play some role in our capacity to be safe and conscientious drivers, then we are legally responsible for the consequences.
If you got behind the wheel of a car when you were very sleepy and fell asleep when driving as a result, you would be fully responsible for any accidents or deaths that might have occurred due to your conduct. This equally applies when a driver in under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In New Jersey all of these examples count as having driven “recklessly” or “in willful disregard of others” on the road. (Section 2C:11-5 of New Jersey’s criminal code outlines the law with respect to death by auto or vessel.)
Make no mistake: vehicular manslaughter is a crime, and people can be punished severely for committing it. Of course, the law is not black and white and does allow for varying degrees – there is “simple negligence” and “gross negligence” to consider, for example. The latter involves driving aggressively, knowingly ignoring traffic laws, and similar infractions.
Simple negligence tackles those instances when a driver may look away from the road momentarily, perhaps by checking his or her GPS or adjusting the AC in their car. People who are convicted of vehicular manslaughter due to simple negligence are typically given less severe punishments.
Penalties and Fines of Vehicular Manslaughter
In New Jersey, vehicular manslaughter can be a second degree crime that could carry a prison sentence of 5 to 10 years and a fine of up to $150,000. However, jail time and hefty fines are just the beginning of the penalty you may suffer for negligent and reckless driving. After all, the person just killed has a family (and likely has lawyers advising them to pursue damages). Driving in a negligent way has bankrupted many people due to the lawsuits that follow, as family members seek justice and remuneration.
Who Should I Contact?
If you were recently charged with vehicular manslaughter, contact Rosenblum Law. They have the know-how and expertise to minimize the potential damages to your time, money, and life. Call 888-815-3649 today.