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Mr. Tumelty represented Helena Hendricks, who was charged with first degree murder in Atlantic County Superior Court. The defendant faced a number of additional charges, including armed robbery, conspiracy and possession of a handgun for an unlawful purpose. At the conclusion of a jury trial that lasted three weeks, the defendant was found "not guilty" of all charges.

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Tough stance proposed on New Jersey DWI involving injury to child

Cape May readers may be interested to learn that New Jersey’s state assembly may soon be taking up consideration of a proposed bill that would significantly increase penalties under certain circumstances for operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated. On September 24, the Assembly Law and Public Safety committee introduced legislation that would increase the severity of criminal charges a person would face when a child is injured as a result of drunk driving.

As it stands, the law imposes a disorderly persons charge for driving while intoxicated with a child in the car. Under current law, the offense remains the same regardless of whether a child suffers an injury as a result of drunk driving.

The proposed law substantially increases the penalties for individuals who drive with a child in the car, targeting parents and legal guardians in particular.

Under the proposed law, if a drunk driving crash resulted in injury to the child, the driver would face fourth-degree criminal charges. Penalties for a fourth-degree crime can run up to 18 months in prison and a $10,000 fine.

If the new law passes, the penalties would be even stiffer in the event that a child suffered serious injuries. A parent or guardian causing serious injuries to a child as a result of drunk driving would face third-degree criminal charges and penalties of up to five years in jail and $15,000 in fines.

New Jersey continues to be among the minority of states in which a first offense DWI is not a criminal offense. That situation may change in the future, however, if the state legislature follows the national trend and adopts laws like the one now on the table. No matter how serious the offense, New Jersey residents charged with drunk driving will want to have a good understanding of the law and their legal rights in order to avoid undue adverse consequences.

Source: The Record, “N.J. assembly panel OKs tougher penalties for drunk driving parents,” Michael Linhorst, Sept. 24, 2012

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