Legal Definition of Assault by Auto
According to N.J.S.A. § 2C:12-1, an assault by auto or vessel occurs when a person recklessly drives their vehicle and causes bodily or serious bodily injury to another person. As it relates to this statute, a vessel is considered a “means of conveyance for travel on water and propelled otherwise than by muscular power.” In short, it’s a boat, ship, or watercraft that can be used for transportation.
Under N.J.S.A. § 2C:11-1, bodily injury includes any physical pain, illness, or impairments. This can include anything from a small cut to a contusion. Serious bodily injury includes bodily injures:
- that put an individual at risk of death,
- that cause severe, permanent disfigurement, or
- that cause the permanent loss of or damage to an organ or bodily function.
Penalties for Assault by Auto in New Jersey
Depending on the circumstances of the incident, a supposed offender can be charged with a disorderly persons offense, a fourth-degree crime, a third-degree crime, or a second-degree crime, and this is simply for the assault by auto offense. The specific penalties for each type of offense are as follows.
Disorderly Persons Offense
Assault by auto is considered a disorderly persons offense if the reckless conduct caused bodily injury. This offense is punishable by up to 6 months of jail time and a fine of up to $1,000.
A conviction of a fourth-degree crime is punishable by up to 18 months of imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000. The accused can be charged with a crime of the fourth degree for assault by auto if their reckless driving resulted in serious bodily injury to another person. A person can also be charged with a crime of the fourth degree if they:
- caused another person bodily injury and were driving while under the influence, or
- caused another person bodily injury and directed their vehicle in “an aggressive manner” towards the other person/vehicle.
Driving in an aggressive manner can include a host of vehicular maneuvers, including but not limited to ignoring traffic signals or other traffic control devices, unexpectedly changing the speed of your vehicle, making abrupt lane changes, failing to properly yield the right of way, or following another vehicle too closely.
A third-degree offense is punishable by 3-5 years of imprisonment and a fine of up to $15,000. An offender can be charged with a crime of the third degree for assault by auto if:
- They cause serious bodily harm and were driving while intoxicated.
- They intentionally drive a vehicle in “an aggressive manner” towards another vehicle and cause serious bodily injury to another person.
A second-degree offense is punishable by 5-10 years of imprisonment and a fine of up to $150,000. A person can be charged with a second-degree crime for assault by auto if they are driving while intoxicated and cause serious bodily injury to a person while:
- On any school property used for school purposes and owned by or leased to an elementary or secondary school or school board.
- Within 1,000 feet of any school property.
- Driving through a school crossing or designated crossing at any time or with the knowledge that minors are present.
The following defenses are prohibited concerning second-degree assault by auto offenses:
- The defendant did not know the incident occurred while on or near school property or school crossings.
- No minors were present on the property or crossing when the offense occurred.
- The school or property was not open at the time of the incident.
Additional Consequences of Conviction
If convicted, you will not only face jail times and fines but will also have a permanent record, which can negatively impact your:
- Eligibility for professional licenses
- Immigration status and eligibility
- Ability to receive student loans or even be accepted into a college or university
- Family law matters, such as child custody and parental rights
- Housing and job applications
- Financial freedom, because of hefty fines and court costs
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The prosecution must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that:
- The alleged offender was actually driving the vehicle or vessel.
- The alleged offender caused the supposed victim bodily injury.
- The alleged victim’s bodily injury or serious bodily injury was caused by the accused’s reckless driving (of a vehicle or vessel).
At the Law Offices of Joseph R. Donahue, LLC, we can help you develop a solid, personalized defense strategy. Our attorney used to serve as a prosecutor, which gives us a unique edge because we understand the opposition’s tactics and approaches. Once you retain our criminal defense firm, we can:
- Advise you of your best legal options
- Help you understand the laws that apply to your case
- Examine the case evidence with a fine-tooth comb
- Investigate the alleged accident
- Work with your best interest in mind
To schedule a free consultation, contact our team online or via phone (201) 574-7919. We are here to fight for your rights and freedoms.