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Bill calls for the creation of new DUI offense in New Jersey

In our previous post, we discussed how two state lawmakers recently introduced measures calling on New Jersey to alter what many view as its intractable and largely draconian stance toward marijuana.

As fascinating as this development was, yet another state lawmaker is now making headlines over proposed legislation that, if passed, would significantly alter the legal landscape as it relates to driving under the influence.

Introduced by State Senator Steve Oroho (R- Sussex), S-2423 calls for the creation of a new third -degree drunk driving charge -- strict liability vehicular homicide -- that could be leveled against those accused of causing a fatality while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

In general, most criminal offenses require the prosecution to prove that a defendant acted with a certain level of intent (i.e., a guilty mind) when committing the criminal act of which they stand accused. Strict liability crimes differ, however, in that all that needs to be demonstrated is that the defendant committed the criminal act, meaning a person can be found guilty regardless of their intent.

Due to its classification as a third-degree crime, those convicted of strict liability vehicular homicide would theoretically face a fine of up to $15,000 and/or three-to-five years in prison. Furthermore, Oroho's legislation expressly dictates that the presumption of non-incarceration that typically applies to those first-time offenders convicted of third-degree crimes would be inapplicable.

It's worth noting that S-2423 also calls for the current offense of "vehicular homicide" to be redefined as "reckless vehicular homicide," meaning prosecutors would essentially have two possible offenses from which to choose in cases involving motorists who cause fatalities.

It remains to be seen whether this legislation, which cleared the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee last week, will gain the necessary traction.

If you have been charged with driving under the influence, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional who can protect your rights, your freedom and your reputation as soon as possible.

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