What are the Penalties for Causing an Accident While Driving Drunk in New Jersey?
Posted by Scott Gorman - April 14, 2023

One of the biggest risks of driving under the influence is causing an accident that results in serious injuries or death. Not only can these accidents have catastrophic consequences for victims and their families, but they can also lead to serious criminal charges. If you are being charged with causing an accident while driving drunk in New Jersey, you could be facing long-term imprisonment, and you need an experienced Essex County DWI lawyer on your side.

Criminal Charges for Causing a DWI Accident in New Jersey

When you are accused of causing an accident while driving drunk in New Jersey, the charges you are likely to face depend on the outcome of the accident. If the accident results in bodily injury, you can be charged with assault by auto. If the accident results in death, you can be charged with vehicular homicide.

Assault By Auto Involving DWI

The crime of “assault by auto” is defined in Section 2c:12-1(c) of the New Jersey Statutes. While assault by auto is a disorderly persons offense in most cases, it can be charged as either a fourth-degree, third-degree or second-degree indictable crime in cases that involve driving while intoxicated.

Assault by auto involving DWI is a fourth-degree crime if the accident results in “bodily injury.” If the accident results in “serious bodily injury,” it can be prosecuted as either a third-degree or second-degree crime. Fourth-degree crimes carry up to 18 months of prison time. Third-degree crimes carry three to five years of imprisonment, while a conviction for a second-degree indictable crime carries a prison sentence of five to ten years.

Vehicular Homicide Involving DWI

The crime of vehicular homicide is defined in Section 2c:11-5 of the New Jersey Statutes. Similar to assault by auto, vehicular homicide charges carry greater penalties in cases that involve drunk driving.

In most cases, causing a fatal accident while DWI is a second-degree indictable offense. Under Section 2C:11-5, following a guilty verdict, the court must impose a minimum sentence of “at, or between, one-third and one-half of the sentence imposed by the court or three years, whichever is greater, during which the defendant shall be ineligible for parole.”

Under certain circumstances, vehicular homicide involving drunk driving can be prosecuted as a first-degree indictable crime. Prosecutors can pursue first-degree charges in cases involving:

  • Fatal DWI accidents on school property; and,
  • Fatal DWI accidents in school crossing zones.

When prosecuted as a first-degree indictable offense, vehicular homicide involving DWI can carry a 10 to 20-year prison sentence, with a mandatory minimum sentence as noted above.

Request a Free and Confidential Consultation with Essex County DWI Lawyer Scott Gorman

If you are facing an assault by auto or vehicular homicide charge involving a DWI, you need experienced legal representation. Essex County DWI lawyer Scott Gorman can help you fight your charge by all means available. To discuss your case with Scott in a free and confidential consultation, call 862-250-6201 or request an appointment online now.

Published in Categories: DUI / DWI