Assault By Auto & Knowingly Leaving the Scene of an Accident in New Jersey

If not handled properly, charges of Assault by Auto and Knowingly Leaving the Scene of an Accident can lead to serious consequences, including excessive fines, probation, restricted driving privileges and even jail time. For this reason, it is important to understand these charges and the possible outcomes of being charged with Assault by Auto and Knowingly Leaving the Scene of a Car Accident in New Jersey.

Assault By Auto in New Jersey

A charge of Assault by Auto (or Vessel) in the State of New Jersey can range from a disorderly persons offense to a second-degree crime.  The level of the charge depends on the specific circumstances of the case and the injuries sustained by the victim or victims.  Under N.J.S.A 2C:12-1(c), a person is guilty of assault by auto or vessel when the person drives a vehicle (or vessel) recklessly and causes either serious bodily injury or bodily injury to another.  The levels of charges are set forth as follows:

  1. Second Degree: When a person operates an automobile or vessel while intoxicated and:
    • On any school property or within 1000 feet of a school;
    • Driving through a school crossing designated by a municipality; or
    • Driving through a school crossing that has not been designated by a municipality but knowing that juveniles are present.  It is not a defense that the person charged was unaware that he/she was in a school zone or that he/she knew that juveniles were present.

NOTE: It’s not a legal defense that the person operated an automobile (or vessel) while under the influence of alcohol or intoxicating narcotics in violation of N.J.S.A. 39:4-50 (DUI) and serious bodily injury results.

  1. Third Degree: When a person operated an automobile (or vessel) while under the influence of alcohol or intoxicating narcotics in violation of N.J.S.A. 39:4-50 (DUI) and serious bodily injury results.
  2. Fourth Degree:
    1. When serious bodily injury results due to the reckless operation of an automobile or vessel.
    2. When a person operates while under the influence of alcohol or intoxicating narcotics in violation of N.J.S.A. 39:4-50 (DUI) and bodily injury results.
  3. Disorderly Persons: When bodily injury results due to the reckless operation of an automobile or vessel

Bodily Injury is defined in N.J.S.A. 2C:11-1 as physical pain, illness or impairment of physical condition.

Serious Bodily Injury is defined as bodily injury that creates a substantial risk of death or which causes serious, permanent disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member of organ.   These definitions, along with the definitions of intoxication and “Drunk Driving” are explained to the jury prior to jury deliberations.  If you have been charged with a Assault by Auto, you should immediately speak with an attorney.

Knowingly Leaving the Scene of the Accident

If you are involved in an accident, you have a duty to remain at the scene of the accident, to report the accident, and to identity yourself to witnesses and the police. If you were operating a motor vehicle and have been involved in a motor vehicle accident in New Jersey, which resulted in serious physical harm to another, and you left the scene of the accident, you can be charged with the third degree offense of Knowingly Leaving the Scene of a Motor Vehicle Accident Resulting in Serious Bodily Injury, which violates N.J.S.A 2C:12-1.1. The law does not require for you to be aware that someone was hurt or injured.

Aggravated Assault and Assault by Auto

In addition to being charged with ‘Knowingly leaving the Scene of an Accident’, the law specifically permits the State of New Jersey to also charge you with Aggravated Assault, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(b), or Assault by Auto under N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(c) as separate offenses.  These charges may be crimes of the second, third, or fourth degree depending on the severity of the offense.  What’s more, if you are charged with these separate offenses and are found guilty, a court is required to impose sentences for those convictions consecutively.  Meaning, sentences are served back to back rather than “concurrently”, or at the same time.

For more information about charges related to vehicular assault, assault by auto, or knowingly leaving the scene of an accident, contact Daniel M. Rosenberg & Associates today.