Drunk driving is always a serious crime, but if someone causes another’s death while driving under the influence in New Jersey, the law is incredibly strict on the penalties. According to NJ.com, Ralph and David’s Law created a new vehicular homicide law specifically in cases of a DUI. This law went on the books in 2017.
The law is a result of public outcry over light DUI sentences and concerns about current laws not addressing some drunk driving cases. The name is a tribute to David Heim and Ralph Politi, who both lost their lives due to a drunk driving accident. Heim was only 13 at the time of his death. Both Heim and Politi were pedestrians at the time of their accidents.
The missing link
Previous laws made it difficult to charge a drunk driver with killing someone due to the requirements of the first- and second-degree offenses. Too often, as was in the cases of Heim and Politi, a drunk driver who killed someone would only face a DUI charge with a maximum sentence of 30 days in jail. The public was unhappy, as were those within the justice system who had no choice but to let people walk away, even if their actions resulted in another’s death.
The new law creates the charge of strict liability homicide, a third-degree felony. It applies to anyone who causes the death of another when driving under the influence. The penalty is a minimum of three years of confinement. In addition, even first-time offenders can face the minimum penalty, which usually would not apply to a third-degree crime.
This new charge gives judges the chance to provide punishment fitting of the crime in the case of a death resulting from a DUI. It also provides families with some ability to feel closure regarding their loss and to feel that justice prevailed.