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VEHICULAR HOMICIDE model jury charge

VEHICULAR HOMICIDE

(DEATH BY AUTO OR VESSEL WITHOUT DRUNK DRIVING OR REFUSAL)

(N.J.S.A.2C:11-5)model jury charge

The defendant (Name) is charged in count __________ with the crime of vehicular homicide. The indictment alleges:

(READ APPROPRIATE COUNT OF INDICTMENT)

The statute upon which this charge is based provides:

Criminal homicide constitutes vehicular homicide when it is caused by driving a vehicle (or vessel) recklessly.

In order for you to find the defendant guilty of this crime, the State must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

1. That the defendant was driving a vehicle [or vessel];1

2. That the defendant caused the death of (name victim); and

3. That the defendant caused such death by driving the vehicle [or vessel] recklessly.

In order to find that the defendant caused (victims) death, you must find that (victim) would not have died but for defendants conduct.2

[NOTE: In cases whereCausation - Removal of Life Supportis an issue, the jury should be instructed as follows:

You have heard testimony that on [date], (insert victims name) was taken off life support and that he/she died at some point after this was done. Should you find beyond a reasonable

1N.J.S.A.2C:11-5d provides: As used in this section, auto or vessel means all means of conveyance propelled otherwise than by muscular power.

2N.J.S.A.2C:2-3a(1). If proximate cause is an issue,N.J.S.A.2C:2-3c should be charged.VEHICULAR HOMICIDE (DEATH BY AUTO OR VESSEL, WITHOUT DRUNK DRIVING OR REFUSAL) (N.J.S.A. 2C:11-5)Page 2 of 4

doubt that (insert victims name) died from medical complications that resulted from injuries caused by defendants actions, the removal of life support, in this case (method of removal), is not an intervening cause that relieves defendant of any criminal liability for those actions.3That is, if defendants actions set in motion (insert victims name) need for life support, without which death would result naturally, then the causal link between defendants action and the death of (insert victims name) was not broken by an unforeseen, extraordinary act when (insert victims name) was removed from life support and then expired, unless there was an intervening volitional act of another.]4

3State v. Pelham, 176N.J.44, 455-456 and n. 2 (2003).

4Pelham, 176N.J.at 467.

[CHARGE IN ALL CASES]

A person acts recklessly when he/she consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that death will result from his/her conduct. The risk must be of such a nature and degree that, considering the nature and purpose of the defendants conduct and the circumstances known to him/her, disregard of the risk involves a gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a reasonable person would observe in the defendants situation.

In other words, in order for you to find that the defendant drove a vehicle [or vessel] recklessly, the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was aware that he/she was operating a vehicle [or vessel] in such a manner or under such circumstances as to create a substantial and unjustifiable risk of death to another. The State must also prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant consciously disregarded this risk and that the disregard of theVEHICULAR HOMICIDE (DEATH BY AUTO OR VESSEL, WITHOUT DRUNK DRIVING OR REFUSAL) (N.J.S.A. 2C:11-5)Page 3 of 4

5State v. Muniz, 118N.J. 319 (1990).

risk was a gross deviation from the way a reasonable person would have conducted himself/herself in the situation.

Recklessness is a condition of the mind that cannot be seen and that can often be determined only from inferences from conduct, words, or acts. It is not necessary for the State to produce a witness to testify that the defendant stated that he/she acted with a particular state of mind. It is within your power to find that proof of recklessness has been furnished beyond a reasonable doubt by inferences that may arise from the nature of the acts and circumstances surrounding the conduct in question.

[WHERE A VIOLATION OF THE MOTOR VEHICLE STATUTES

IS ALLEGED, ADD THE FOLLOWING:

The State alleges that the defendants conduct involved [a] violation[s] of the motor vehicle laws of this State. Specifically, it is alleged that the defendant[list motor vehicle violations alleged and their elements].Whether he/she is guilty or not of that [those] offense[s] will be determined by an appropriate court.5In other words, it is not your job to decide whether he/she is guilty or not guilty of any motor vehicle offense[s]. However, you may consider the evidence that he/she committed [a] motor vehicle offense[s] in deciding whether he/she was reckless.

[CHARGE WHERE APPROPRIATE]

In this case, the State has presented evidence suggesting that defendant may have fallen asleep while driving [or that defendant was driving after having been without sleep for a periodVEHICULAR HOMICIDE (DEATH BY AUTO OR VESSEL, WITHOUT DRUNK DRIVING OR REFUSAL) (N.J.S.A. 2C:11-5)Page 4 of 4

6N.J.S.A.2C:11-5a.

in excess of 24 consecutive hours]. Proof that defendant may have fallen asleep [or that defendant was driving after having been without sleep for a period in excess of 24 consecutive hours] may give rise to an inference that defendant was driving recklessly.6However, you are never required or compelled to draw this inference. It is your exclusive province to determine whether the facts and circumstances shown by the evidence support any inference and you are always free to accept or reject the inference as you deem appropriate.

[CHARGE IN ALL CASES]

In conclusion, the three elements of the crime of vehicular homicide are:

1. That the defendant was driving a vehicle [or vessel];

2. That the defendant caused the death of (name victim); and

3. That the defendant caused such death by driving the vehicle [or vessel]

recklessly.

If you are satisfied that the State has proven each and every one of these elements beyond a reasonable doubt, then you must find the defendant guilty of vehicular homicide. However, if the State has failed to prove any element beyond a reasonable doubt, then you must find the defendant not guilty of vehicular homicide.


Kenneth Vercammen was the Middlesex County Bar Municipal Court Attorney of the Year
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Kenneth Vercammens Law office represents individuals charged with criminal, drug offenses, and serious traffic violations throughout New Jersey. Our office helps people with traffic/ municipal court tickets including drivers charged with Driving While Intoxicated, Refusal and Driving While Suspended.

Kenneth Vercammen was the NJ State Bar Municipal Court Attorney of the Year and past president of the Middlesex County Municipal Prosecutors Association.

Criminal and Motor vehicle violations can cost you. You will have to pay fines in court or receive points on your drivers license. An accumulation of too many points, or certain moving violations may require you to pay expensive surcharges to the N.J. DMV [Division of Motor Vehicles] or have your license suspended. Dont give up! The Law Office of Kenneth Vercammen can provide experienced attorney representation for criminal motor vehicle violations.

When your job or drivers license is in jeopardy or you are facing thousands of dollars in fines, DMV surcharges and car insurance increases, you need excellent legal representation. The least expensive attorney is not always the answer. Schedule an appointment if you need experienced legal representation in a traffic/municipal court matter.

Our website www.NJLaws.com provides information on traffic offenses we can be retained to represent people. Our website also provides details on jail terms for traffic violations and car insurance eligibility points. Car insurance companies increase rates or drop customers based on moving violations.

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Kenneth Vercammen & Associates, P.C.
at 732-572-0500
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Ken Vercammen articles

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