If you think the penalty for texting while driving is a traffic ticket, think again. You could be charged with murder. Last year, a woman was found guilty of vehicular homicide for texting while driving. She is now facing a sentence of 5 to 10 years in prison. The case involved a 50-year-old womnn who worked for a non-profit foundation. She rear-ended another vehicle that was stopped for a pedestrian in the crosswalk. The stopped vehicle was propelled forward into the pedestrian, who suffered from significant traumatic injuries and ultimately died five days after the accident.
Apparently the driver was in the middle of responding to a text from her sister-in-law when the crash occurred. She denied the claim and at trial testified that she was not texting, but rather looking down to turn on her rear-window defogger. Police found an unsent text message on her phone and she testified that she had no memory typing the incomplete message. She instead claimed that she intended to call her sister-in-law later. The jury deliberated for two and a half days and ultimately found her guilty of vehicular manslaughter. The prosecutor pointed out that texting while driving is even worse than drunk driving because “there are no reflexes,” the driver just doesn’t see it coming.
Although New Jersey added texting while driving to its vehicular homicide law in 2012, this was the first time first time such a case has gone to trial. The 2012 statute, was named Kulesh, Kubert and Bolis’ Law, after other victims that were killed or severely injured by distracted drivers.
Currently, forty-seven states ban texting while driving. In New Jersey, the penalty for “distracted driving” is between $200 and $400 for the first offense; between $400 and $600 for the second offense, and between $600 and $800 for third and subsequent offenses. The third and subsequent offenses, also results in 3 points on the driver’s license and possible license suspension.
As the recent criminal trial shows, going to prison can be the penalty for even the first distracted driving offense if there is an accident resulting in severe injuries.
Contact Powell & Roman, LLC if you require an attorney.