TRENTON – Acting Gov. Kim Guadagno signed a bill into law that will provide prosecutors with an added tool for obtaining a conviction of vehicular homicide or assault by automobile against a person who is illegally using a cell phone while driving has been signed into law.
“When a driver makes the decision to ignore basic common sense and uses a cell phone while behind the wheel, if someone is hurt or killed as a result of that recklessness, there should be serious penalties,” said state Sen. Raymond Lesniak, D-Union. “This new law gives prosecutors the ability to leverage tougher penalties against drivers who violate the state’s hands-free cell phone law and cause an accident that injures or kills someone else. It’s the right thing to do, and it sends the message that New Jersey takes the threat of reckless driving very seriously.”
Under existing law, a person can be found guilty of death by auto or assault by auto if they are proven to be driving a motor vehicle recklessly. The new law puts into statute that the illegal use of a cell phone at the time of the accident may lead to the conclusion that the defendant was driving recklessly. Vehicular homicide is generally a crime of the second degree, punishable by imprisonment of five to ten years, a fine of up to $150,000, or both. Assault by auto is a crime of the fourth degree if serious bodily injury occurs and a disorderly persons offense if bodily injury occurs. A fourth degree crime is punishable by up to 18 months imprisonment, a fine of up to $10,000, or both. The penalty for a disorderly persons offense is imprisonment for up to six months, a fine of up to $1,000, or both.
The legislation was designated as “Kulesh, Kubert’s, and Bolis’ Law” after Helen Kulesh, an Elizabeth woman who was tragically killed by a person who was using a cell phone while driving; David and Linda Kubert, a Morris County couple who were both severely injured by a driver who was illegally using a cell phone; and Toni Bolis and her son Ryan Jeffery Bolis, from Washington Township in Gloucester County, who died in a motor vehicle accident that was allegedly caused by a person who was using a cell phone while driving.
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