shoe on side of road

Vehicular Homicide (Manslaughter) Attorney in Hudson County

A charge of vehicular homicide, sometimes referred to as vehicular manslaughter, is an extremely serious offense in New Jersey and must be treated as such. If you have been charged with violating N.J.S.A. 2C:11-5, it is imperative for you to understand what you are up against because at a minimum, you are facing a second degree crime with a presumption of imprisonment. Not only that, but there is a mandatory amount of time that you will be subjected to serving before parole consideration. The seasoned criminal defense lawyers at William Proetta Criminal Law are aggressive when defending clients charged with vehicular homicide and other severe felony crimes in Hudson County, New Jersey. Whether you have been accused of drunk driving, driving under the influence of drugs, or otherwise driving recklessly and causing someone else’s death, our criminal trial team has the knowledge, dedication, and decades of combined experience to assist you. Serving as your defender in this time of need is our passion, as we have dedicated our careers to protecting clients facing criminal and DWI charges in Hoboken, Jersey City, Weehawken, Secaucus, Bayonne, Union City, Kearny, and other towns throughout Hudson County and the state. To receive a free attorney consultation regarding your particular vehicular homicide case in New Jersey, contact our office in Jersey City at (201) 793-8018. Also, please feel free to send us a message to begin your conversation or request a free discussion with a lawyer by contacting us with our convenient form.


Homicide refers to a circumstance in which someone is killed due to the acts of another. Homicide includes intentional killings which are pre-planned, as well as fatalities caused by accidents. The death of another person may occur by gunshot, stabbing, fistfight, poisoning, or any other act. When a death is caused by a vehicle being driven in a reckless manner, it is considered vehicular homicide (manslaughter). Before a jury can find someone guilty of an offense under N.J.S.A. 2C:11-5, the prosecutor must prove the defendant operated a motor vehicle, was reckless in the operation of the vehicle, and that said reckless driving caused the death of someone else.

Recklessness that leads to a death by auto or vessel offense is far different from the state of mind of purposefulness involved in intentional murders. As such, a charge of vehicular homicide does not mean that you intended to hurt or kill anyone. Instead, it means that while you accidentally killed someone, you could have avoided the event altogether by acting appropriately. Specifically, a person acts recklessly if he or she is aware of a risk of danger and simply ignores the risk, thus continuing with the behavior. This applies specifically to operation of a motor vehicle or vessel when the person is charged with vehicular homicide. Examples of reckless driving in vehicular homicide cases include any of the following:

  • using your cell phone while driving and getting into an accident a result;
  • driving under the influence of alcohol resulting in an accident;
  • driving under the influence of drugs or any substance impairing your ability to drive;
  • driving while being sleep deprived (no sleep for a minimum of 24 hours);

Since the above gives rise to an inference of recklessness, it is important to remember that anything you tell the police after the accident will be scrutinized and absolutely used against you. After the accident, what appears to be a low-key conversation between the driver and the officer, is really an investigation that will be used in the prosecution against you. Additionally, keep in mind that the above list is not exhaustive. It by no means limits the state’s ability to find different forms of recklessness. Similarly, the statute does not limit the vehicles used in the commission of the offense to motor vehicles, meaning those driving other vessels such as boats have been prosecuted with these criminal violations.


Vehicular homicide is one of two of the highest-level indictable crimes in the state of New Jersey. Generally, vehicular homicide is a second degree crime for which you may be sentenced to 5-10 years in New Jersey State Prison. However, if you are accused of driving under the influence (N.J.S.A. 39:4-50) and anyone dies while you are on school property or within 1000 feet thereof, or driving through a designated school crosswalk, or crosswalk with juveniles present, the police will lodge a first degree felony criminal complaint against you. First degree crimes allow for the most severe punishment within the New Jersey criminal system and the minimum time behind bars in 10 years.

The court cannot make any allowances for you or anyone else who commits vehicular manslaughter because the laws governing the permissible sentence mandate such punishments. In fact, for some death by auto offenses, New Jersey forces the application of enhanced punishment at sentencing. For those who have been found to have driven under the influence, there is a minimum time in jail that a person must serve before they are eligible for release. Specifically, a convicted person under this provision must serve at least 1/3 to 1/2 of their sentence but no less than three years. For example, if you are convicted of a second degree crime and are sentenced to five years, you must serve 3 years before being released or being up for parole. Ordinarily, a five year term allows for parole eligibility after a person serves roughly ⅓ of their sentence (2o months on a 5 year term). When you are incarcerated and your life and your loved ones remain outside of the prison walls, the difference between 20 months in 36 months is astounding.

In addition to prison time, heavy fines of up to $150,000 for a second degree vehicular homicide crime, and driver’s license suspension for a minimum of 5 years and up to life if you were driving while intoxicated, killing someone in a car crash can also lead to a lawsuit against you in civil court. Having to pay damages to the victim’s family for their death can be financially devastating.


Remember, when the stakes are as high as they are in vehicular homicide cases, it is important to consult with legal counsel before you talk to anyone else. There are defenses for death by auto charges and various ways to make it difficult for the state to prove its case against you. One of the top methods to improve your situation during the pendency of a vehicular manslaughter case is to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney. Our Hudson County criminal justice lawyers have represented numerous individuals charged with violent crimes such as vehicular homicide , eluding police, aggravated manslaughter, and aggravated assault. We are available to answer any questions that you may have about a criminal charge, just contact (201) 793-8018 to reach our Jersey City office. Consultations are free and entirely confidential.