NJ Governor Signs DWI Bill into Law: What it Means for DWI Vehicular Homicide Charges

DWI Causing Death Criminal Charges in New Jersey After the New Jersey State Legislature unanimously passed bipartisan legislation to impose more severe punishments on those convicted of driving while intoxicated (DWI) that results in another person’s death, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie just signed the bill into law.

The aforementioned legislation, Bill A-3686, is also called “Ralph and David’s Law” in honor of two victims who inspired the bill after their tragic deaths caused by drunk drivers. “Ralph” refers to 49-year-old Ralph Politi Jr. of East Hanover, who was killed in 2012 on Ridgedale Avenue. The driver, Vanessa Brown, was driving under the influence when she stuck and killed Politi while he was standing next to his truck. Brown, of Parsippany, was convicted on charges for second offense DWI (her first had occurred several years earlier in Tinton Falls), reckless driving, careless driving, and failure to maintain lane, but was acquitted on charges for aggravated manslaughter and vehicular homicide. In a similar case, 13-year-old Sussex County resident David Heim was killed in 2004 by a drunk driver who was only sentenced to 30 days in jail for a first offense DWI

Governor Christie signed the bill on Friday, July 21st, so what does it mean for individuals charged with driving under the influence when it causes death?

DWI and Strict Liability Vehicular Homicide Charges in New Jersey

Previously in New Jersey, if a person caused someone else’s death driving while intoxicated, they could be charged with Vehicular Homicide under New Jersey’s Death by Auto Statute (N.J.S.A. 2C:11-5). According to this section of the NJ Criminal Code, a person is presumed to be driving recklessly when driving under the influence and when this act causes the death of another, the person can be charged with a second degree crime. Second degree crimes in New Jersey entail a presumption of incarceration, which means that even first-time offenders are required to serve prison time. The sentencing range for a second degree crime in New Jersey is between 5 and 10 years. In addition, a conviction for vehicular homicide requires a mandatory minimum period of parole ineligibility, set at or between one-third and one-half of the sentence imposed, or 3 years, whichever is greater. Additional penalties for Death by Auto include a license suspension for a minimum of 5 years and up to lifelong supension, as well as a $150,000 fine.

The issue that prosecutors have run into in the past is that in some cases, the elements of the offense do not rise to the level of second degree Death by Auto, which allows the defendant to be convicted solely for the drunk driving offense and to face no other penalties in connection with the death caused by their reckless driving/DWI. The new law creates a new offense known as “strict liability vehicular homicide,” which allows the State to prosecute drivers who cause a person’s death while driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Strict liability vehicular homicide is classified as a third degree crime; however it entails an additional nuance. Although typical third degree crimes under NJ law entail a presumption of non-incarceration for first-time offenders, this offense will not. Essentially, this creates a minimum 3-year sentence for anyone convicted of strict liability vehicular homicide in New Jersey.

Senator Stephen Oroho said this about the new legislation: “Harsher punishments can act as a deterrent and ensure that reckless drunk drivers who kill receive a punishment that reflects the magnitude of their crime.” Overall, this means that defendants charged with DWI and strict liability vehicular homicide moving forward will need to have the strict liability charges outright dismissed in order to avoid a jail sentence.

For additional information pertaining to this issues, access the following resource: Christie signs law honoring DWI victim Ralph Politi Jr.


  • No promises, just a Pro!

  • Excellent Lawyer... Helped me in every step off my Case..

  • Great work

  • Best lawyer!!

  • FRO removal success!!

  • Easy to work with, straightforward

  • Kept my license

  • Father of client

  • Excellent Attorney , Charges Dismissed as promised

  • Helped every step of the way

  • Avoid mandatory jail time on shoplifting charges


  • Help

  • Did the job he was hired to do

  • Great lawyer

  • Simple assault charge was dropped

  • Top Notch Representation

  • Well worth it.

  • DUI Case Dismissed

  • 2 felony charges dismissed

  • Cameron bury

  • great attorney

  • Hands Down Professional and delivers results!!!

  • DUI case dismissed

  • 125 stars out of 10!!

  • Excellent at getting best outcome

  • Excellent Attorney

  • TRO Dismissal

  • Efficient Excellent attorney.

  • Excellent attorney

  • Travis successfully defended me in an unprecedented Final Restraining Order Trial with ease

  • Kick Ass Attorney!

  • Efficient and professional attorney

  • Great Lawyer And Great Results

  • Top Notch DUI Attorney

  • Client Domestic Violence

  • Restraining Order

  • A real pro in a time of need - DWI Dismissed.

  • The most experienced, patient and affordable attorney

  • Travis Tormey successfully had a False TRO against me dismissed.

  • Underaged Drinking

  • Underaged Drinking

  • DUI Dismissed

  • Saved me from a DUI. HIGHLY recommended

  • Restraining Order

  • Case dismissed with Data Driven Facts

  • Respectful. Attentive. Professional.

  • Trespassing and Under the Influence Disorderly Persons charges

  • If you are reading this- You have reached the right place! Undoubtedly, the BEST Law Firm in New Jersey!

  • Amazing attorney with a heart of gold

  • Exceeded my expectations, Highly Professional Attorney

  • Responsive and knowledgeable.

  • The Tormey law firm was very kind and professional

  • Expungement

  • Travis Tormey is a True Professional Who Kept Me Out of Jail

  • Saved me a whole ton of problems

  • Travis Tormey Review

  • A nightmare case, with a happy ending.

  • Elite NJ Marijuana Attorney! 5 Stars!!

  • An Excellent lawyer!

  • Great lawyer for DUI

  • I highly endorse Travis Tormey.

  • Travis Tormey Law Firm

  • Travis is a Lifesaver

  • Travis J. Tormey - Evaluation

  • Great Lawyer. Got me off exactly what I wanted

  • Consummate Professional!

  • Great Criminal Defense Lawyer

  • Good Service

  • Exceptional Lawyer

  • Exceptional Lawyer

  • Hired to defend me for aggravated assault

  • Hired to defend me in a restraning order

  • Excellent attorney, highly recommend his talents

  • DWI Counsel

  • I highly recommend Mr. Tormey

  • Great attorney

  • Travis Tormey, Esq. - Great Results!

  • Travis Tormey - Excellent Attorney-Kind and Trustworthy

  • Excellent Attorney-Trustworthy and Kind

  • An Outstanding lawyer!!! That will represent you in the correct way!

  • Excellent Attorney! You will not be dissapointed....

  • Travis Tormey Gets Results!

  • tormey

  • Success!!

  • Travis Tormey Review

  • Only Lawyer I Recommend

  • Very Grateful

  • Attorney review of Travis Tormey

  • Excellent

Experience You Can Trust

With unmatched knowledge and experience in the practice of law, the seasoned attorneys at The Tormey Law Firm are committed to serving their clients and tenaciously confronting the allegations against them.

We will examine every facet of your case in order to defend your constitutional rights and reputation. With a dedicated legal advocate to assist you, our attorneys will ensure that you are never forced to navigate the complex legal process on your own.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Learn More About How to Fight Your Charges

If you've been charged with a criminal offense, disorderly persons offense, or traffic / DWI violation, you have the right to an attorney who will defend you against your charges and fight for your best interests. To learn more about how your attorney can fight to have your charges dismissed or reduced, click a link below to see our video library of legal defenses and strategies.

The Tormey Law Firm

Areas we serve

Bergen County, Essex County, Morris County, Passaic County, Hudson County, Middlesex County, Somerset County including Morristown, Denville, Dover, Mount Olive, Parsippany, Hackensack, East Rutherford, Elmwood Park, Englewood, Fort Lee, Garfield, Lodi, Lyndhurst, Mahwah, Palisades Park, Paramus, Ridgefield Park, Saddle Brook, Teaneck, Clifton, and Wayne.

  • Hackensack Office

    254 State Street Hackensack, NJ 07601

    (201) 556-1570

    view larger map

  • Morristown Office

    55 Madison Avenue Suite 400, Morristown, NJ 07960

    (908) 336-5008

    view larger map