Almost 3 years ago, two sisters were killed in a collision with a state trooper. The girls were running an errand and had the misfortune of being struck by a police cruiser allegedly involved in a chase. The officer admittedly did not have his siren or lights activated at the time of the accident.
The trooper was issued multiple motor vehicle tickets following the accident. He was later indicted for death by auto. He is facing 5 to 10 years in prison if convicted of this offense. This controversial trial is set to begin in Cape May County.
The New Jersey Death by Auto Law is set forth at N.J.S.A. 2C:11-5. An individual is criminally culpable under this provision if he or she operates a vehicle “recklessly” and it results in the death of another. While these cases typically involve some element of intoxication, the law does not mandate involvement of foreign substance and reckless conduct of any origin will suffice. In order to be convicted of vehicular homicide, an individual must have been the operator of a vehicle, his or her operation must have resulted in the death of another, and must have been reckless. An individual must act without due regard for a high risk of injury to another to be reckless under N.J.S.A. 2C:11-5 and N.J.S.A. 39:4-96.
In this case, the state has a significant burden to satisfy if it is going to obtain a conviction. The truth is that cases like these are rarely prosecuted. I can only suspect that there is much more to this case than is offered in newspapers and other publications. We will keep you posted on the outcome.