Monthly Archives: September 2005

New Criminal Offense linked to Unlicensed Drivers – NJSA 2C:40-22

Yesterday, the Acting-Governor signed into law an amendment to NJSA 2C:40-22 that makes it a criminal offense for a person who has never been licensed in any jurisdiction to operate a motor vehicle and be involved in an accident resulting in death or serious bodily injury. As constituted under the statute, this new crime is a strict liability offense and is designated as a crime of the 3rd degree in cases involving death and a crime of the 4th degree in cases involving serious bodily injury. Upon conviction, such a criminal offender must lose his driving privileges for an additional period of one year. The newly amended statute is referred to as “Christopher’s Law.”

A copy of the Legislative Statement and the amended statute follows:

Statement

As amended and reported by the committee, Senate Bill No. 2144 establishes that a driver who has never been issued a driver’s license in this State or another jurisdiction or who is the holder of a driver’s license from a jurisdiction other than New Jersey whose license has been suspended or revoked by that jurisdiction who is involved in a motor vehicle accident that results in the death of another person is guilty of a crime of the third degree. Third degree crimes are punishable by three to five years imprisonment, a fine of up to $15,000, or both. The amended bill also makes it a crime of the fourth degree for such an unlicensed person to be involved in an accident that results in serious bodily injury. Fourth degree crimes are punishable by a term of imprisonment of up to 18 months, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.

Under current law, a person who has been prohibited from obtaining a driver’s license or who’s driver’s license has been refused, suspended or revoked who is involved in an accident that results in the death of another person is guilty of a crime of the third degree and is guilty of a crime of the fourth degree if the accident results in serious bodily injury to another person.

The committee amended the bill to make it a fourth degree crime for a person who has never been issued a driver’s license to operate a motor vehicle involved in an accident resulting in serious bodily injury to another person. The amendments also clarify that upon conviction under the bill, a person’s reciprocity privilege could also be suspended. The amendments specify that a driver’s license suspension under the bill’s provisions would be consecutive to any existing revocation or suspension. Finally, the amendments clarify that the provisions of the bill apply to persons from other countries who are unlicensed and to persons whose licenses are suspended or revoked in another country.

Section 2 of P.L.2001, c.213 (C.2C:40-22) is amended to read as follows:

2. a. A person who, while operating a motor vehicle in violation of R.S.39:3-40 or while the person’s driver’s license is suspended or revoked in any other State, the District of Columbia or the United States Territories of American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands, or by another country, or without ever having been issued a driver’s license by this or any other State, the District of Columbia or the United States Territories of American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands, or by another country, is involved in a motor vehicle accident resulting in the death of another person, shall be guilty of a crime of the third degree, in addition to any other penalties applicable under R.S.39:3-40 or any other provision of law. Upon conviction, the person’s driver’s license or reciprocity privilege shall be suspended for an additional period of one year, in addition to any suspension applicable under R.S.39:3-40 and shall be consecutive to any existing suspension or revocation. If the person did not have a driver’s license at the time the accident occurred , the person shall be disqualified from obtaining a driver’s license in this State for a period of one year. The additional period of suspension , revocation or disqualification shall commence upon the completion of any term of imprisonment.

b. A person who, while operating a motor vehicle in violation of R.S.39:3-40 or while the person’s driver’s license is suspended or revoked in any other State, the District of Columbia or the United States Territories of American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands , or by another country, or without ever having been issued a driver’s license by this or any other State, the District of Columbia or the United States Territories of American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands, or by another country, is involved in a motor vehicle accident resulting in serious bodily injury, as defined in N.J.S.2C:11-1, to another person shall be guilty of a crime of the fourth degree, in addition to any other penalties applicable under R.S.39:3-40 or any other provision of law. Upon conviction, the person’s driver’s license or reciprocity privilege shall be suspended for an additional period of one year, in addition to any suspension applicable under R.S.39:3-40 , and shall be consecutive to any existing suspension or revocation. If the person did not have a driver’s license at the time the motor vehicle accident occurred, the person shall be disqualified from obtaining a driver’s license in this State for a period of one year. The additional period of suspension , revocation or disqualification shall commence upon the completion of any term of imprisonment.

c. The provisions of N.J.S.2C:2-3 governing the causal relationship between conduct and result shall not apply in a prosecution under this section. For purposes of this offense, the defendant’s act of operating a motor vehicle while his driver’s license or reciprocity privilege has been suspended or revoked or who operates a motor vehicle without being licensed to do so is the cause of death or injury when:

(1) The operation of the motor vehicle is an antecedent but for which the death or injury would not have occurred; and

(2) The death or injury was not:

(a) too remote in its occurrence as to have a just bearing on the defendant’s liability; or

(b) too dependent upon the conduct of another person which was unrelated to the defendant’s operation of a motor vehicle as to have a just bearing on the defendant’s liability.

d. It shall not be a defense to a prosecution under this section that the decedent contributed to his own death or injury by reckless or negligent conduct or operation of a motor vehicle.

e. Nothing in this section shall be construed to preclude or limit any prosecution for homicide.

(cf: P.L.2001, c.213, s.2)

Category: Muni-Mail Archive

Video of Supreme Court Oral Argument in Eckel & Badessa

On Tuesday September 13, 2005, two cases of importance in municipal court were argued before the New Jersey Supreme Court. Last December, In State v. Eckel, 374 N.J. 91 (App. Div. 2004), the Appellate Division abrogated, on state constitutional grounds, the so-called “Belton Rule” (New York v. Belton, 453 U.S. 950 (1981)).Generally, this rule permits a police search of an automobile incident to the arrest of one of the occupants. The argument before the Supreme Court was an attempt by the State to persuade the Justices to reverse the Appellate Division holding. The oral argument in State v. Eckel can be viewed by going to the following link:

View the Video

Also during the morning session of the 13th of September, the Justices heard argument in the case of State v. Badessa, 373 N.J. Super. 84 (App. Div. 2004). Badessa is a drunk driving and refusal case that was subject to a motion to suppress. The defendant was acquitted of the DWI charge in municipal court, found guilty of refusal and his motion to suppress was denied. In the Appellate Division, the panel agreed that his motion to suppress should have been granted, but sustain his refusal conviction under the so-called “attenuation doctrine”, the theory being that “because [his] voluntary and illegal act of refusal would dissipate the taint of any possible prior illegality, thus precluding the refusal from being characterized as ‘fruit of the poisonous tree.'” State v. Badessa, supra at 90.

The oral argument in Badessa can be viewed by going to the following link:

View the Video.

Category: Muni-Mail Archive