The New Jersey State Legislature is currently considering the passage of two bills that will increase penalties for phone-related vehicular offenses. The more stringent laws apply to both texting and talking while driving, as the prevalence of these crimes has become progressively problematic. Bill S69 was unanimously passed by the Senate on June 25, 2012 and would dramatically raise fines for talking or texting violations. Under this new law, drivers would pay $200, $400, and $600 for their first, second, and third offenses, respectively. The third offense would also include a 90-day driver’s license suspension, applied on a case-by-case basis by the sentencing judge. In addition, drivers would face three (3) points on their licenses for third offenses as well as any offenses thereafter. An accompanying bill in the Assembly has not moved forward.  

To access Bill S69 in its entirety go to:

A second bill, A1074, was recently passed by the lower house of the State Assembly. This piece of legislation seeks to classify texting and talking while driving as “reckless” and is aimed at individuals who injure or kill another person while doing so. If the bill is passed, these individuals will face vehicular homicide or assault by auto charges depending on the severity of the victim’s injuries.

For the complete version of Bill A1074 go to:

According to N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1c:

“A person is guilty of assault by auto [or vessel] when the person drives a vehicle [or vessel] recklessly and causes…bodily injury to another.”

It is the state’s responsibility to prove the following:

1. That defendant was driving a vehicle [or vessel];

2. That defendant caused bodily injury to (name victim); and

3. That defendant caused such bodily injury by driving the vehicle [or vessel] recklessly.

“Bodily injury is defined as physical pain, illness or any impairment of physical condition. In order to find that defendant caused (victim’s) injury, you must find that (victim) would not have been injured but for defendant’s conduct. A person acts recklessly when (he/she) consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that bodily injury will result from (his/her) conduct.  The risk must be of such a nature and degree that, considering the nature and purpose of the defendant’s conduct and the circumstances known to (him/her), disregard of the risk involves a gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a reasonable person would observe in the defendant’s situation.” (

Assault by auto qualifies as a disorderly persons offense (known as a “DP”) if it causes bodily injury, carrying a penalty of up to six (6) months in the county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. If the assault by auto causes serious bodily injury, it can be upgraded to a fourth degree crime. Sentencing for a fourth degree conviction can include an 18-month prison term as well as a fine of up to $10,000.

According to N.J.S.A. 2C: 11-5:

“Criminal homicide constitutes vehicular homicide when it is caused by driving a vehicle (or vessel) recklessly.”

It is the state’s responsibility to prove the following:

1. That the defendant was driving a vehicle [or vessel];

2. That the defendant caused the death of (name victim); and

3. That the defendant caused such death by driving the vehicle [or vessel] recklessly.

“In order to find that the defendant caused (victim’s) death, you must find that (victim) would not have died but for defendant’s conduct. (

Vehicular homicide is a second-degree offense predicated upon the notion that the defendant was driving recklessly. The sentence for this type of crime can include between five (5) and ten (10) years in prison and/or a fine of up to $150,000.

On a second degree crime, there is a presumption of incarceration. This means that, even with no prior criminal record, if you are convicted of a second degree offense, it is presumed that a state prison sentence will be imposed (the minimum of which is five (5) years). Alternatively, on a third or fourth degree criminal offense, there is a presumption of non-incarceration. This means that, if you have no prior criminal record, you are considered a good candidate for a probationary term in lieu of jail time.