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How Likely is Jail in NJ Careless Driving Cases?

How Likely is Jail in NJ Careless Driving Cases?

Under the NJ careless driving statute (N.J.S.A. 39:4-97), in addition to monetary penalties, offenders can be sentenced to jail. Until now, jail has been a very infrequent consequence of careless driving charges. However, the NJ Supreme Court is considering the criteria for sending careless drivers to jail. State v. Palma involved a driver who hit a pedestrian and dragged her down the road with the vehicle unknowingly. The pedestrian later died from her injuries. An investigation revealed Palma was not intoxicated and was not using a cellular phone while driving. The Judge sentenced Palma to 15 days in jail as a penalty for careless driving in addition to suspending her license. The Court considered the factors in State v. Moran, 202 N.J. 311 (2010) which include the nature of the conduct, the risk of harm, any harm actually caused and the drivers prior record. The Moran principles set forth considerations for suspension in the event of reckless driving and have no bearing on jail terms for careless driving. The NJ Appellate Division held the Moran factors to be acceptable in the determination of whether to impose a jail term for careless driving. The NJ Supreme Court accepted the prosecutor’s appeal and is now considering the criteria for sending careless drivers to jail. Depending on the court’s decision, jail for careless driver may be a mechanism used by prosecutors to pressure clients into plea agreements which include lengthy suspension or harsher fines in exchange for no jail time. If you are facing careless driving charges, the consequences may be more severe than you think. For more information about careless driving, reckless driving, driving while suspended, DUI, DWI or other motor vehicle charges in New Jersey, visit HeatherDarlingLawyer.com. This blog is for informational purposes only and not intended to replace the advice of an attorney.

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