Leaving the Scene of an Accident Resulting in Death

Highly Skilled New Jersey Criminal Lawyers & Former Prosecutors That Defend Leaving the Scene of an Accident Resulting in Death Charges

A criminal offense for leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death is a serious matter in New Jersey that requires an experienced defense lawyer.The penalties for leaving the scene of an accident escalate significantly if someone dies in the crash. A hit and run actually mushrooms into a crime of the second degree with the possibility of up to 10 years. If you were charged with leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death, assault by auto, vehicular homicide, your selection of the right defense attorney is pivotal since the consequences of a conviction will include a length prison sentence.

The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall have exactly what you need with a team of accomplished NJ criminal lawyers. Our impressive qualifications include:

  • Over 200 years of combined experience representing those charged with motor vehicle related criminal charges
  • Ten lawyers that specialize exclusively in defense of those accused of violating the law
  • Former county prosecutors that have served as Director of the Major Crimes Bureau, Homicide, Special Operations, and even an entire Trial Division
  • Certified criminal trial attorneys

The legal summary that follows is intended to provide you with working knowledge on this subject. To get answers to more specific questions such as how our attorneys can assist you with defending a leaving the scene charge, a detention hearing, initial appearance, or any other matter, call 877-450-8301. A lawyer is available 24/7 to assist you and initial consultations are always free.

N.J.S.A. 2C:11-5.1 – Knowingly Leaving the Scene of an Accident Resulting in Death

The New Jersey criminal law that comes into play when someone knowingly leaves the scene of an accident involving death is N.J.S.A. 2C:11-5.1. This statute makes it a second-degree crime to knowingly leave the scene of an accident where someone dies. The headings below outline the elements of proof that must be established in order for the state to convict someone for violating 2C:11-5.1.

  1. Defendant Was The Operator of a Motor Vehicle
  2. Knowing Involvement in an Accident. The prosecutor must establish that the driver knew or reasonably should have known that he/she was involved in an accident. Involvement in an accident alone is not enough as the law requires that the motorist connect themself with a collision or contribution to an accident.
  3. Knowingly Leaving the Scene. Someone knowingly leaves the scene of an accident if they know they are doing so or that there is a high probability that this will occur. Factors to be considered in determining whether this has occurred include: (1) whether the driver immediately stopped at the scene; (2) whether the motorist returned to the scene of the accident; (3) whether their identity and other important information was provided at the scene; and (4) whether assistance was provided to those injured in the accident.  
  4. Accident Resulted in Death. The knowledge that someone died is not required. This element has been satisfied so long as a death occurred and it is not a defense that the driver was unaware that someone died.

Penalties for Knowingly Leaving the Scene of an Accident Resulting in Death

As previously stated, this offense is a second-degree crime. The penalties that may be imposed at the time of sentencing are 5-10 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000. In addition, a conviction under 2C:11-5.1 does not merge with one for aggravated manslaughter, reckless vehicular homicide or strict liability vehicular homicide What this means is that someone can face both the penalties for leaving the scene and these additional charges. Furthermore, the prison sentences of each offense must run consecutively.

Important New Jersey Case Law Interpreting 2C:11-5.1

State v. Sene, 443 N.J.Super. 134 (AppDiv.2015): The Leaving of the Scene of an Accident Involving Death Law does not require contact between vehicles but only that the defendant knows (or reasonably should know) that he/she contributed to an accident.

State v. Fisher, 395 N.J.Super. 533 (AppDiv.2007): The hit and run statute creates an obligation for a driver to remain at or return to the scene of the accident, to identify himself/herself, and to remain until the arrival of police.

Contact Our NJ Criminal Defense Firm To Discuss Your Fatal Leaving the Scene of an Accident Case

A second-degree crime is an extremely serious matter that requires representation from an experienced criminal lawyer. It can result in as much as a decade of incarceration so selecting the very best attorney you can find is important. We genuinely believe that our credentials in this area of law are both unique and exceptional. Contact the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall at 877-450-8301 to learn how our team can help you avoid a conviction and penalties.

 


New Jersey Model Jury Charge for Leaving the Scene of an Accident Resulting in Death

The indictment charges the defendant with the offense of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in the death of another as follows:

(Read pertinent count of indictment)

The defendant is accused of violating a section of our State statutes that reads as follows:

A motor vehicle operator who knows that he is involved in an accident and knowingly leaves the scene of that accident . . . shall be guilty of a crime. . . if the accident results in the death of another person.

In order for you to find the defendant guilty of this offense, you must find that the State has proved beyond a reasonable doubt each of the following elements:

  1. That the defendant was operating a motor vehicle;
  2. That the defendant was involved in an accident while operating that motor vehicle;
  3. That the defendant knew that he/she was involved in an accident;
  4. That the defendant knowingly left the scene of that accident under circumstances that violated the provisions of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Code [N.J.S.A. 39:4-129]; and
  5. That the accident resulted in the death of another person.

The first element that the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt is that the defendant was operating a motor vehicle.  A motor vehicle includes all vehicles propelled otherwise than by muscular power, excepting such vehicles as run only upon rails or tracks and motorized bicycles. 

The second element that the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt is that the defendant was involved in an accident while operating that motor vehicle.  An accident includes a sudden event (such as a crash) that is not planned or intended and that causes damage or injury.   

The third element that the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt is that the defendant knew that he/she was involved in an accident.

A person acts knowingly when he/she is aware that it is practically certain that his/her conduct will cause bodily injury.  A person acts knowingly with respect to the nature of his/her conduct or the attendant circumstances if he/she is aware that his/her conduct is of that nature, or that such circumstances exist, or he/she is aware of the high probability of their existence.  A person acts knowingly as to a result of his/her conduct if he/she is aware that it is practically certain that his/her conduct will cause such a result.  “Knowing,” “with knowledge,” or equivalent terms have the same meaning.

Knowledge is a condition of the mind.  It cannot be seen.  It can only be determined by inference from the defendant’s conduct, words or acts.  A state of mind is rarely susceptible of direct proof but must ordinarily be inferred from the facts.  Therefore, it is not necessary that the State produce witnesses to testify that an accused said that he/she had a certain state of mind when he/she did a particular thing.  It is within your power to find that such proof has been furnished beyond a reasonable doubt by inference which may arise from the nature of his/her acts and conduct and from all he/she said an did at the particular time and place and from all surrounding circumstances established by the evidence.

In other words, a person knows that he/she was involved in an accident if he/she is aware that he/she was involved in an accident or is aware of a probability that he/she was involved in an accident.  A person is involved in an accident when he/she is connected with the accident in a natural or logical manner.  What is required is that the person’s actions contributed to the accident, and the person knows of the causal relationship between his/her actions and the accident. 

The fourth element that the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt is that the defendant knowingly left the scene of the accident under circumstances that violated the provisions of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Act [N.J.S.A. 39:4-129]. 

I have already defined “knowingly” for you.  A motorist knowingly leaves the scene of an accident if he/she is aware that he/she is leaving the scene of an accident or is aware of a high probability that he/she is leaving the scene of an accident. 

In order for the State to prove this element, it must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did not fulfill any of the following obligations that New Jersey law places on a motorist who is involved in an accident:

  1. Immediately stop his/her vehicle at the scene of the accident; or
  2. Immediately stop his/her vehicle as close to the scene of the accident as possible and return to the scene of the accident; or
  3. Report all necessary information to the appropriate authorities in a timely manner.

A motorist who fails to fulfill any of these obligations leaves the scene of an accident under circumstances that violated the provisions of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Act [N.J.S.A. 39:4-129].  However, the State need not prove that the defendant knew of his/her legal obligation to stop at or near the scene of the accident and report all necessary information so long as he/she knew that he/she was involved in the accident. 

In this matter, the State alleges __________.  [Charge if appropriate:  The defendant, on the other hand, asserts ________]. 

The fifth element that the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt is that the accident resulted in the death of another person.  The State need not prove that defendant knew that the accident had resulted in death or would result in death.

If you find that the State has proved each element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt, then you must find the defendant guilty.

If you find that the State has failed to prove any element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt, then you must find the defendant not guilty.