Our criminal defense law firm, based in Philadelphia, represents individuals charged in Pennsylvania and New Jersey with misdemeanor and felony offenses. In addition to representing persons accused of the illegal possession of drugs, narcotics, illegal handguns and firearms, our law firm represents those charged with driving while intoxicated or impaired (New Jersey) and driving under the influence (Pennsylvania). Read my free books on DUI
Most people fail to realize that drunk driving, like an illegal gun or a narcotic, can lead to felony charges and a possible state prison sentence. Normally people assume drunk driving is simply a misdemeanor offense in the Commonwealth (Title 75, Section 3802) and a traffic offense in the Garden State (N.J.S.A. 39:4-50). There are, however, a number of DUI felony offenses.
Pennsylvania – Homicide by Vehicle– Title 75 § 3735
Under Title 75 § 3735, homicide by vehicle while DUI is a felony of the 2nd degree (max sentence is 10 years state prison). This felony is committed when a person unintentionally causes the death of another person as the result of a violation of Section 3802 (DUI statute). If a person is convicted under this section, he or she faces a mandatory minimum 3 year state prison sentence and if there are multiple fatalities the sentences would run consecutively as opposed to concurrently (at the same time.)
Homicide by vehicle while DUI is a felony of the 1st degree (20 year max sentence) if a person has a prior conviction for DUI. In this situation a person would face a 5 year mandatory minimum state prison sentence.
Pennsylvania – Aggravated Assault by Vehicle while DUI – 3735.1
Under this section of the Pennsylvania traffic code (Title 75), any person who negligently causes serious bodily injury to another as the result of a violation of section 3802 commits a felony of the 2nd degree. Unlike homicide by DUI there is no mandatory minimum sentence for this felony offense.
In addition to DUI felony related offenses, there are also traffic offenses involving homicide and aggravated assault which are graded as felony offenses in Pennsylvania. Under section 3732, a person is guilty of Homicide by Vehicle when he or she recklessly, or with gross negligence, causes the death of another person while in operation or in use of a vehicle. This offense is graded as a felony of the 3rd degree (7 year max) and there is no mandatory minimum associated with this offense. Under section 3732.1, a person is guilty of aggravated assault by vehicle when this person recklessly, or with gross negligence, causes serious bodily injury to another person while engaged in the operation of a motor vehicle. This is also graded as a felony of the 3rd degree and carries with it no mandatory minimum sentencing.
New Jersey – Assault 2C: 12-1(c)(2) & Death by Auto 2C:11-5 while DWI
Assault by Auto while DUI is a crime of the 3rd degree in New Jersey under 2C: 12-1(c)(2) and is a crime of the 2nd degree if serious bodily injury occurs as a result of the incident while DUI (New Jersey DWI statute RS 39:4-50).
In the Garden State an Aggravated Assault by vehicle (non DWI) is committed when a person recklessly causes serious bodily injury to another person. It is a crime of the 4th degree if serious bodily injury occurs but it is only a disorderly person’s offense (non-indictable) if the prosecution can only establish bodily injury. One important point to keep in mind is that a person who is operating a hand-held device at the time of the incident allows the court to draw an inference that the person was driving recklessly.
Death by Auto in New Jersey (2C:11-5) is committed when a person causes the death of another by driving recklessly and is a crime of the 2nd degree. Death by Auto (aka Vehicular Homicide) is a crime of the 1st degree where the person is DWI or under the influence of some narcotic or other drug. Death by Auto while DWI in Jersey, like Pennsylvania, carries with it a 3 year mandatory minimum state prison sentence.
For more information on drunk driving in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, I encourage you to keep reading my blog and visit my free download section.