ASSEMBLY, No. 2287

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

214th LEGISLATURE

 

INTRODUCED FEBRUARY 18, 2010

 


 

Sponsored by:

Assemblyman  ALBERT COUTINHO

District 29 (Essex and Union)

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

     “Helen’s Law;” establishes criminal penalty for causing death or serious bodily injury when violating hands-free cell phone law when driving.

 

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

     As introduced.

  


An Act concerning certain motor vehicle accidents resulting in death or serious bodily injury, designated as Helen’s Law, and supplementing Title 2C of the New Jersey Statutes.

 

     Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

 

     1.    a. A person who is found to be responsible for a motor vehicle accident resulting in the death of another person while using a wireless telephone or electronic communication device in violation of section 1 of P.L.2003, c.310 (C.39:4-97.3) shall be guilty of a crime of the third degree, in addition to any other penalties prescribed by the laws of this State.  Upon conviction, the person's driver's license or reciprocity privilege shall be suspended for a period of one year, in addition to any other applicable suspension or revocation, which shall be consecutive to any existing suspension or revocation. 

     b.    A person who is found to be responsible for a motor vehicle accident resulting in serious bodily injury, as defined in N.J.S.2C:11-1, to another person while using a wireless telephone or electronic communication device in violation of section 1 of P.L.2003, c.310 (C.39:4-97.3) shall be guilty of a crime of the fourth degree, in addition to any other penalties prescribed by the laws of this State.  Upon conviction, the person's driver's license or reciprocity privilege shall be suspended for a period of one year, in addition to any other applicable suspension or revocation, which shall be consecutive to any existing suspension or revocation. 

     c.     It may be a defense to a prosecution under this section that the decedent or injured person contributed to the motor vehicle accident by negligent conduct or negligent operation of a motor vehicle.

     d.    Nothing in this section shall be construed to preclude or limit prosecution or conviction of death by auto under N.J.S.2C:11-5, or any prosecution or conviction for any other offense.

     e.     The presumption of non-imprisonment for certain offenders set forth in subsection e. of N.J.S.2C:44-1 shall not apply to convictions made pursuant to this section.

 

     2.  This act shall take effect immediately.

 

 

STATEMENT

 

     This bill, to be known as “Helen’s Law,” establishes that a motor vehicle accident caused by a person using a cell phone while driving, in violation of State law, which results in the death of another person is a crime of the third degree and requires a one-year driver’s license suspension in addition to any other sentence determined by the court upon conviction.  A crime of the third degree is punishable by three to five years imprisonment, a fine of up to $15,000, or both. 

     The bill also establishes a crime of the fourth degree if the accident results in the serious bodily injury of another person, and is punishable by a one-year license suspension in addition to any other sentence determined by the court upon conviction.  A crime of the fourth degree is punishable by up to 18 months imprisonment, a fine of up to $10,000, or both. 

     The bill negates the presumption of non-imprisonment typically applicable to crimes of the third and fourth degree.  This bill does not preclude or limit prosecution for death by auto or any other offense. 

     The bill provides that it may be a defense to a prosecution that the injured person or decedent contributed to the motor vehicle accident by negligent conduct or operation of a motor vehicle.

     This bill is named “Helen’s Law” to honor the memory of Helen Kulesh, a beloved resident of Elizabeth, who was killed by a driver talking on a cell phone in February 2006, and to encourage the State’s drivers to abide by the State’s prohibition on driving while using a wireless telephone to make the streets safer for other drivers and pedestrians.