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A new legislation increasing the penalties for drunk drivers who cause a fatality was introduced in New Jersey in May. This legislation, Senate Bill No. 2423, is commonly known as "Ralph and David's Law". The proposed legislation would create a new third-degree crime of "strict liability vehicular homicide" for persons who cause a death while under the influence of drugs or alcohol while operating a motor vehicle. To clarify, a third degree crime is punishable with a prison sentence of 3 to 5 years and/or a fine of up to $15,000. The bill has the stated goal of making it easier to punish and convict DUI/DWI offenders who kill an innocent bystander. 

The bill is named after two community members tragically killed in accidents involving drunk drivers. Ralph Politi was an East Hanover resident and business owner. While standing by his pickup truck, he was killed by a drunk driver who swerved out of his lane. The driver was acquitted of first-degree aggravated manslaughter and second-degree vehicular homicide.

David Heim was a 13-year old boy from Sussex County also killed by a drunk driver. The driver was convicted only convicted of driving drunk, and served a meager 30 days in jail, the maximum term for a first-offense in New Jersey.

John F. McKeon (D-Essex/Morris) said this of the legislation: "In the case of both Ralph and David, this bill's namesakes, their tragic deaths, and their family's grief, were compounded by the leniency of their perpetrator's sentence. This legislation will help close that loophole and send a stronger message that we will not tolerate this type of negligent and reckless behavior."

Assemblywoman Mila M. Jasey (D-Essex/Morris) expressed a similar sentiment. "What these families have endured is unimaginable, but hopefully this will serve as a potent reminder and a powerful deterrent for others who might be inclined to get behind the wheel drunk. This legislation sends a message, loud and clear, that we will not tolerate this type of callous disregard for another person's life."

Ralph and David's law seeks to increase the consequences of DWI/DUI in cases where a fatality occurs. Under the proposed legislation, the driver's intoxication would be considered the cause of death, barring extreme circumstances or too much dependence on the behavior of the victim (for example someone running into traffic). The bill also seeks to remove the protection first offenders currently have, and make it possible to seek jail time as a consequence of their actions.

Driving While Intoxicated is a serious offense in Morris County, with serious consequences. If you or a loved one has been the victim of a crime related to DUI/DWI, or have been charged with DUI/DWI, contact the law offices of Smith & Doran in Morristown NJ today to receive your cost-free consultation.

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