The holiday season is here, and this usually means that Morristown police are stepping up enforcement of traffic laws, including drunk driving laws. Although a New Jersey OWI charge is no laughing matter, OWI is not the most serious charge an alleged drunk driver could face. Depending on the circumstances, an alleged drunk driver could face accusations of intoxicated manslaughter. This blog post will provide a little more information about the crime of vehicular homicide in New Jersey.
In order to convict a defendant of vehicular homicide, a New Jersey prosecutor must prove three things. The prosecutor must prove that the defendant was driving a vehicle or vessel. The prosecutor must also prove that the defendant caused the death of another person. Finally, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant caused the death by driving the vehicle or vessel recklessly.
In determining whether a driver was driving recklessly, juries are allowed to take into account whether the driver was in violation of New Jersey’s laws against drunk driving. If the jury decides that a driver was driving drunk in defiance of the law, the jury is also allowed to conclude that the jury was driving recklessly. The jury is not required to draw this conclusion, however. What this means is that if the jury decides that a driver accused of vehicular manslaughter was driving drunk at the time of the incident, the jury can conclude that the driver was driving recklessly with just this belief.
This means that a defendant’s trial on charges of vehicular homicide could come down to the powers of persuasion on each side. Defendants facing charges of vehicular homicide from alleged drunk driving should take this into account when making decisions as to their representation in court.