New Law Toughens Penalties for Fatal Distracted Driving

Under a new law, drivers who kill someone while using a handheld cell phone can now be charged with vehicular homicide. The law allows prosecutors to charge distracted drivers with vehicular homicide if they kill someone with an automobile. The legislation is called the “Kulesh, Kubert and Bolis Law” in recognition of the victims of three distracted-driving crashes in New Jersey.

“If you drink and drive, you’re reckless, and a prosecutor can charge you with that. Now if you text and drive, you can be charged with reckless driving,” Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno said.

The new law does not change the penalties for reckless driving, but it adds illegal cell phone use – texting or talking on a phone that is not hands-free — to the list of factors that can indicate reckless driving.

If a reckless driver kills someone, prosecutors can bring vehicular homicide charges. That crime is punishable by imprisonment of five to ten years, a fine of up to $150,000, or both. Similarly, a reckless driver who injures someone can be brought up on assault by automobile charges.

Assault by auto that results in serious injury is punishable by up to 18 months imprisonment, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.

Christopher M. Pyne is a Shareholder and member of Stark & Stark’s Lawrenceville, New Jersey office, specializing in Accident & Personal Injury Law. For more information, please contact Mr. Pyne.