NJ Leaving the Scene of an Accident with Serious Injury
New Jersey Criminal Attorney & Former Prosecutor
The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall is a criminal defense law firm in New Jersey that represents individuals charged, arrested and/or indicted for leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident involving serious personal injury. Our lawyers are experienced in handling criminal and traffic offenses and our lead attorney, Jonathan F. Marshall, is a former prosecutor. If you or a loved one is the subject of an investigation, arrest or indictment for allegedly violating N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1.1, a lawyer with our NJ law firm is available to assist. Please do not hesitate to contact our office as initial consultations are always without charge and our law office handles these cases statewide including Monmouth County, Ocean County, Union County, Middlesex County, Mercer County, Burlington County, Atlantic County, Somerset County, Essex County, Passaic County, Hudson County, and Bergen County.
New Jersey Leaving the Scene of an Accident Law
New Jersey has both a motor vehicle charge known as leaving the scene and a criminal code offense by the same name. The motor vehicle offense is set forth at N.J.S.A. 39:4-129 and the criminal charge is contained at N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1.1. The laws sound similar but there are significant differences, particularly, with respect to penalties and punishment. The criminal offense is an indictable charge which is litigated at the Superior Court level and can involve significant jail exposure. The statute provides as follows:
2C:12-1.1. Leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident.
A motor vehicle operator who knows he is involved in an accident and knowingly leaves the scene of that accident under circumstances that violate the provisions of R.S.39:4-129 shall be guilty of a crime of the third degree if the accident results in serious bodily injury to another person. The presumption of nonimprisonment set forth in N.J.S.2C:44-1 shall not apply to persons convicted under the provisions of this section.
If the evidence so warrants, nothing in this section shall be deemed to preclude an indictment and conviction for aggravated assault or assault by auto under the provisions of N.J.S.2C:12-1.
Notwithstanding the provisions of N.J.S.2C:1-8 or any other provisions of law, a conviction arising under this section shall not merge with a conviction for aggravated assault or assault by auto under the provisions of N.J.S.2C:12-1 and a separate sentence shall be imposed upon each conviction.
Notwithstanding the provisions of N.J.S.2C:44-5 or any other provisions of law, whenever in the case of such multiple convictions the court imposes multiple sentences of imprisonment for more than one offense, those sentences shall run consecutively.
For the purposes of this section, neither knowledge of the serious bodily injury nor knowledge of the violation are elements of the offense and it shall not be a defense that the driver of the motor vehicle was unaware of the serious bodily injury or provisions of R.S.39:4-129.
A hit and run accident which results in death or serious bodily injury is a crime. A driver who is knowingly involved in an accident and knowingly leaves the scene of that accident is guilty of a crime of the fourth degree if the accident results in serious bodily injury to another person.
Explanation of the Law
Proving a criminal charge for knowingly leaving the scene of an accident with serious personal injury can be complicated and the criminal defense lawyers at our firm do our best to make sure the prosecution is challenged in establishing each and every element of the offense. The following is a discussion of major issues arising in these types of cases:
I. Proving a Motor Vehicle Violation
A prerequisite to establishing a violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1.1 is proof that the suspect violated N.J.S.A. 39:4-129. In other words, it must be demonstrated that the suspect failed to remain at the scene after being involved in an accident. The obligation to exchange information and credentials as required under the motor vehicle statute would also have to be violated in order for a criminal indictment under this statute to be sustainable.
II. The Accident Must Involve Serious Bodily Injury
A charge under N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1.1 is only viable where someone sustained “serious bodily injury.” The New Jersey criminal code defines “serious bodily injury” as an injury involving a substantial risk of death or resulting in serious permanent disfigurement or protracted loss or impairment of the function of a bodily member or organ.
III. Criminal Responsibility
While the motor vehicle pedigree of the law only requires knowledge on the part of the suspect that he was involved in an accident, a criminal violation for leaving the scene of an accident also requires proof that the defendant knowingly left the scene.
IV. Merger and Sentencing
It is important to understand that neither aggravated assault nor assault by auto are lesser included offenses of knowingly leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident involving serious personal injury. Accordingly, a conviction under N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1.1 does not merge into either of the aforesaid offenses and an individual could therefore be arrested, indicted and convicted of two of these charges although they arise out of a single accident. In terms of grading, an individual may be charged with a third-degree crime or fourth-degree crime under the statute. In either event, however, the presumption of non-incarceration which would otherwise apply under the New Jersey criminal code for a third-degree or fourth-degree charge does not apply.
If you require legal representation for a third-degree or fourth-degree indictment for leaving the scene of an accident, the lawyers at our defense law firm are prepared to defend you. We are a statewide criminal practice and appear in Monmouth County, Ocean County, Atlantic County, Mercer County, Burlington County, Middlesex County, Union County, Somerset County, Passaic County, Hudson County, Essex County and Bergen County. A lawyer is available to speak to you immediately and initial consultations with our attorneys are free. You should not delay in contacting a lawyer if you are under investigation, have been indicted or arrested for leaving the scene, as the best results are often reached in cases where a defense attorney has gotten involved early.