ASSEMBLY, No. 1074

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

215th LEGISLATURE

 

PRE-FILED FOR INTRODUCTION IN THE 2012 SESSION

 


 

Sponsored by:

Assemblywoman  ANNETTE QUIJANO

District 20 (Union)

Assemblyman  ALBERT COUTINHO

District 29 (Essex)

Assemblyman  ANTHONY M. BUCCO

District 25 (Morris and Somerset)

Assemblyman  MICHAEL PATRICK CARROLL

District 25 (Morris and Somerset)

Assemblyman  PAUL D. MORIARTY

District 4 (Camden and Gloucester)

 

Co-Sponsored by:

Assemblywomen Handlin and N.Munoz

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

     “Kulesh and Kubert’s Law;” establishes violation of hands-free cell phone law as reckless under vehicular homicide and assault by auto statutes.

 

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

     Introduced Pending Technical Review by Legislative Counsel

  


An Act concerning the use of wireless telephones in motor vehicles, designated as Kulesh and Kubert’s Law, and amending N.J.S.2C:11-5 and N.J.S.2C:12-1. 

 

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

 

     1.    N.J.S.2C:11-5 is amended to read as follows:

     2C:11-5. Death by auto or vessel.

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

     Proof that the defendant fell asleep while driving or was driving after having been without sleep for a period in excess of 24 consecutive hours may give rise to an inference that the defendant was driving recklessly.  Proof that the defendant was driving while intoxicated in violation of R.S.39:4-50 or was operating a vessel under the influence of alcohol or drugs in violation of section 3 of P.L.1952, c.157 (C.12:7-46) shall give rise to an inference that the defendant was driving recklessly. Proof that the defendant was operating a hand-held wireless telephone while driving a motor vehicle in violation of section 1 of P.L.2003, c.310 (C.39:4-97.3) shall give rise to an inference that the defendant was driving recklessly. Nothing in this section shall be construed to in any way limit the conduct or conditions that may be found to constitute driving a vehicle or vessel recklessly.

     b.    Except as provided in paragraph (3) of this subsection, vehicular homicide is a crime of the second degree.

     (1)   If the defendant was operating the auto or vessel while under the influence of any intoxicating liquor, narcotic, hallucinogenic or habit-producing drug, or with a blood alcohol concentration at or above the prohibited level as prescribed in R.S.39:4-50, or if the defendant was operating the auto or vessel while his driver's license or reciprocity privilege was suspended or revoked for any violation of R.S.39:4-50, section 2 of P.L.1981, c.512 (C.39:4-50.4a), by the Director of the Division of Motor Vehicles pursuant to P.L.1982, c.85 (C.39:5-30a et seq.), or by the court for a violation of R.S.39:4-96, the defendant shall be sentenced to a term of imprisonment by the court.  The term of imprisonment shall include the imposition of a minimum term.  The minimum term shall be fixed at, or between, one-third and one-half of the sentence imposed by the court or three years, whichever is greater, during which the defendant shall be ineligible for parole.

     (2)   The court shall not impose a mandatory sentence pursuant to paragraph (1) of this subsection unless the grounds therefor have been established at a hearing.  At the hearing, which may occur at the time of sentencing, the prosecutor shall establish by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant was operating the auto or vessel while under the influence of any intoxicating liquor, narcotic, hallucinogenic or habit-producing drug, or with a blood alcohol concentration at or above the level prescribed in R.S.39:4-50 or that the defendant was operating the auto or vessel while his driver's license or reciprocity privilege was suspended or revoked for any violation of R.S.39:4-50, section 2 of P.L.1981, c.512 (C.39:4-50.4a), by the Director of the Division of Motor Vehicles pursuant to P.L.1982, c.85 (C.39:5-30a et seq.), or by the court for a violation of R.S.39:4-96.  In making its findings, the court shall take judicial notice of any evidence, testimony or information adduced at the trial, plea hearing, or other court proceedings and shall also consider the presentence report and any other relevant information.

     (3)   Vehicular homicide is a crime of the first degree if the defendant was operating the auto or vessel while in violation of R.S.39:4-50 or section 2 of P.L.1981, c.512 (C.39:4-50.4a) while:

     (a)   on any school property used for school purposes which is owned by or leased to any elementary or secondary school or school board, or within 1,000 feet of such school property;

     (b)   driving through a school crossing as defined in R.S.39:1-1 if the municipality, by ordinance or resolution, has designated the school crossing as such; or

     (c)   driving through a school crossing as defined in R.S.39:1-1 knowing that juveniles are present if the municipality has not designated the school crossing as such by ordinance or resolution.

     A map or true copy of a map depicting the location and boundaries of the area on or within 1,000 feet of any property used for school purposes which is owned by or leased to any elementary or secondary school or school board produced pursuant to section 1 of P.L.1987, c.101 (C.2C:35-7) may be used in a prosecution under subparagraph (a) of this paragraph.

     It shall be no defense to a prosecution for a violation of subparagraph (a) or (b) of this paragraph that the defendant was unaware that the prohibited conduct took place while on or within 1,000 feet of any school property or while driving through a school crossing.  Nor shall it be a defense to a prosecution under subparagraph (a) or (b) of this paragraph that no juveniles were present on the school property or crossing zone at the time of the offense or that the school was not in session.

     (4)   If the defendant was operating the auto or vessel in violation of R.S.39:4-50 or section 2 of P.L.1981, c.512 (C.39:4-50.4a), the defendant's license to operate a motor vehicle shall be suspended for a period of between five years and life, which period shall commence upon completion of any prison sentence imposed upon that person.

     c.     For good cause shown, the court may, in accepting a plea of guilty under this section, order that such plea not be evidential in any civil proceeding.

     d.    Nothing herein shall be deemed to preclude, if the evidence so warrants, an indictment and conviction for aggravated manslaughter under the provisions of subsection a. of N.J.S.2C:11-4

     As used in this section, "auto or vessel" means all means of conveyance propelled otherwise than by muscular power.

     e.     Any person who violates paragraph (3) of subsection b. of this section shall forfeit the auto or vessel used in the commission of the offense, unless the defendant can establish at a hearing, which may occur at the time of sentencing, by a preponderance of the evidence that such forfeiture would constitute a serious hardship to the family of the defendant that outweighs the need to deter such conduct by the defendant and others.  In making its findings, the court shall take judicial notice of any evidence, testimony or information adduced at the trial, plea hearing, or other court proceedings and shall also consider the presentence report and any other relevant information.  Forfeiture pursuant to this subsection shall be in addition to, and not in lieu of, civil forfeiture pursuant to chapter 64 of this title.

(cf: P.L.2003, c.143, s.1)

 

     2.    N.J.S.2C:12-1 is amended to read as follows: 

     2C:12-1.  Assault. a. Simple assault.  A person is guilty of assault if he:

     (1)   Attempts to cause or purposely, knowingly or recklessly causes bodily injury to another; or

     (2)   Negligently causes bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon; or

     (3)   Attempts by physical menace to put another in fear of imminent serious bodily injury.

     Simple assault is a disorderly persons offense unless committed in a fight or scuffle entered into by mutual consent, in which case it is a petty disorderly persons offense.

     b.    Aggravated assault.  A person is guilty of aggravated assault if he:

     (1)   Attempts to cause serious bodily injury to another, or causes such injury purposely or knowingly or under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life recklessly causes such injury; or

     (2)   Attempts to cause or purposely or knowingly causes bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon; or

     (3)   Recklessly causes bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon; or

     (4)   Knowingly under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life points a firearm, as defined in section 2C:39-1f., at or in the direction of another, whether or not the actor believes it to be loaded; or

     (5)   Commits a simple assault as defined in subsection a. (1), (2) or (3) of this section upon:

     (a)   Any law enforcement officer acting in the performance of his duties while in uniform or exhibiting evidence of his authority or because of his status as a law enforcement officer; or

     (b)   Any paid or volunteer fireman acting in the performance of his duties while in uniform or otherwise clearly identifiable as being engaged in the performance of the duties of a fireman; or

     (c)   Any person engaged in emergency first-aid or medical services acting in the performance of his duties while in uniform or otherwise clearly identifiable as being engaged in the performance of emergency first-aid or medical services; or

     (d)   Any school board member, school administrator, teacher, school bus driver or other employee of a public or nonpublic school or school board while clearly identifiable as being engaged in the performance of his duties or because of his status as a member or employee of a public or nonpublic school or school board or any school bus driver employed by an operator under contract to a public or nonpublic school or school board while clearly identifiable as being engaged in the performance of his duties or because of his status as a school bus driver; or

     (e)   Any employee of the Division of Youth and Family Services while clearly identifiable as being engaged in the performance of his duties or because of his status as an employee of the division; or

     (f)    Any justice of the Supreme Court, judge of the Superior Court, judge of the Tax Court or municipal judge while clearly identifiable as being engaged in the performance of judicial duties or because of his status as a member of the judiciary; or

     (g)   Any operator of a motorbus or the operator's supervisor or any employee of a rail passenger service while clearly identifiable as being engaged in the performance of his duties or because of his status as an operator of a motorbus or as the operator's supervisor or as an employee of a rail passenger service; or

     (h)   Any Department of Corrections employee, county corrections officer, juvenile corrections officer, State juvenile facility employee, juvenile detention staff member, juvenile detention officer, probation officer or any sheriff, undersheriff, or sheriff's officer acting in the performance of his duties while in uniform or exhibiting evidence of his authority; or

     (i)    Any employee, including any person employed under contract, of a utility company as defined in section 2 of P.L.1971, c.224 (C.2A:42-86) or a cable television company subject to the provisions of the "Cable Television Act," P.L.1972, c.186 (C.48:5A-1 et seq.) while clearly identifiable as being engaged in the performance of his duties in regard to connecting, disconnecting or repairing or attempting to connect, disconnect or repair any gas, electric or water utility, or cable television or telecommunication service; or

     (j)    Any health care worker employed by a licensed health care facility to provide direct patient care, any health care professional licensed or otherwise authorized pursuant to Title 26 or Title 45 of the Revised Statutes to practice a health care profession, except a direct care worker at a State or county psychiatric hospital or State developmental center or veterans' memorial home, while clearly identifiable as being engaged in the duties of providing direct patient care or practicing the health care profession; or

     (k)   Any direct care worker at a State or county psychiatric hospital or State developmental center or veterans' memorial home, while clearly identifiable as being engaged in the duties of providing direct patient care or practicing the health care profession, provided that the actor is not a patient or resident at the facility who is classified by the facility as having a mental illness or developmental disability; or

     (6)   Causes bodily injury to another person while fleeing or attempting to elude a law enforcement officer in violation of subsection b. of N.J.S.2C:29-2 or while operating a motor vehicle in violation of subsection c. of N.J.S.2C:20-10.  Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, a person shall be strictly liable for a violation of this subsection upon proof of a violation of subsection b. of N.J.S.2C:29-2 or while operating a motor vehicle in violation of subsection c. of N.J.S.2C:20-10 which resulted in bodily injury to another person; or

     (7)   Attempts to cause significant bodily injury to another or causes significant bodily injury purposely or knowingly or, under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life recklessly causes such significant bodily injury; or

     (8)   Causes bodily injury by knowingly or purposely starting a fire or causing an explosion in violation of N.J.S.2C:17-1 which results in bodily injury to any emergency services personnel involved in fire suppression activities, rendering emergency medical services resulting from the fire or explosion or rescue operations, or rendering any necessary assistance at the scene of the fire or explosion, including any bodily injury sustained while responding to the scene of a reported fire or explosion.  For purposes of this subsection, "emergency services personnel" shall include, but not be limited to, any paid or volunteer fireman, any person engaged in emergency first-aid or medical services and any law enforcement officer.  Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, a person shall be strictly liable for a violation of this paragraph upon proof of a violation of N.J.S.2C:17-1 which resulted in bodily injury to any emergency services personnel; or

     (9)   Knowingly, under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life, points or displays a firearm, as defined in subsection f. of N.J.S.2C:39-1, at or in the direction of a law enforcement officer; or

     (10) Knowingly points, displays or uses an imitation firearm, as defined in subsection f. of N.J.S.2C:39-1, at or in the direction of a law enforcement officer with the purpose to intimidate, threaten or attempt to put the officer in fear of bodily injury or for any unlawful purpose; or

     (11) Uses or activates a laser sighting system or device, or a system or device which, in the manner used, would cause a reasonable person to believe that it is a laser sighting system or device, against a law enforcement officer acting in the performance of his duties while in uniform or exhibiting evidence of his authority.  As used in this paragraph, "laser sighting system or device" means any system or device that is integrated with or affixed to a firearm and emits a laser light beam that is used to assist in the sight alignment or aiming of the firearm.

     Aggravated assault under subsections b. (1) and b. (6) is a crime of the second degree; under subsections b. (2), b. (7), b. (9) and b. (10) is a crime of the third degree; under subsections b. (3) and b. (4) is a crime of the fourth degree; and under subsection b. (5) is a crime of the third degree if the victim suffers bodily injury, otherwise it is a crime of the fourth degree. Aggravated assault under subsection b.(8) is a crime of the third degree if the victim suffers bodily injury; if the victim suffers significant bodily injury or serious bodily injury it is a crime of the second degree. Aggravated assault under subsection b. (11) is a crime of the third degree.

     c. (1) A person is guilty of assault by auto or vessel when the person drives a vehicle or vessel recklessly and causes either serious bodily injury or bodily injury to another.  Assault by auto or vessel is a crime of the fourth degree if serious bodily injury results and is a disorderly persons offense if bodily injury results.

     (2)   Assault by auto or vessel is a crime of the third degree if the person drives the vehicle while in violation of R.S.39:4-50 or section 2 of P.L.1981, c.512 (C.39:4-50.4a) and serious bodily injury results and is a crime of the fourth degree if the person drives the vehicle while in violation of R.S.39:4-50 or section 2 of P.L.1981, c.512 (C.39:4-50.4a) and bodily injury results.

     (3)   Assault by auto or vessel is a crime of the second degree if serious bodily injury results from the defendant operating the auto or vessel while in violation of R.S.39:4-50 or section 2 of P.L.1981, c.512 (C.39:4-50.4a) while:

     (a)   on any school property used for school purposes which is owned by or leased to any elementary or secondary school or school board, or within 1,000 feet of such school property;

     (b)   driving through a school crossing as defined in R.S.39:1-1 if the municipality, by ordinance or resolution, has designated the school crossing as such; or

     (c)   driving through a school crossing as defined in R.S.39:1-1 knowing that juveniles are present if the municipality has not designated the school crossing as such by ordinance or resolution.

     Assault by auto or vessel is a crime of the third degree if bodily injury results from the defendant operating the auto or vessel in violation of this paragraph.

     A map or true copy of a map depicting the location and boundaries of the area on or within 1,000 feet of any property used for school purposes which is owned by or leased to any elementary or secondary school or school board produced pursuant to section 1 of P.L.1987, c.101 (C.2C:35-7) may be used in a prosecution under subparagraph (a) of paragraph (3) of this subsection.

     It shall be no defense to a prosecution for a violation of subparagraph (a) or (b) of paragraph (3) of this subsection that the defendant was unaware that the prohibited conduct took place while on or within 1,000 feet of any school property or while driving through a school crossing.  Nor shall it be a defense to a prosecution under subparagraph (a) or (b) of paragraph (3) of this subsection that no juveniles were present on the school property or crossing zone at the time of the offense or that the school was not in session.

     As used in this section, "vessel" means a means of conveyance for travel on water and propelled otherwise than by muscular power.

     d.    A person who is employed by a facility as defined in section 2 of P.L.1977, c.239 (C.52:27G-2) who commits a simple assault as defined in paragraph (1) or (2) of subsection a. of this section upon an institutionalized elderly person as defined in section 2 of P.L.1977, c.239 (C.52:27G-2) is guilty of a crime of the fourth degree.

     e.     (Deleted by amendment, P.L.2001, c.443).

     f.     A person who commits a simple assault as defined in paragraph (1), (2) or (3) of subsection a. of this section in the presence of a child under 16 years of age at a school or community sponsored youth sports event is guilty of a crime of the fourth degree.  The defendant shall be strictly liable upon proof that the offense occurred, in fact, in the presence of a child under 16 years of age.  It shall not be a defense that the defendant did not know that the child was present or reasonably believed that the child was 16 years of age or older.  The provisions of this subsection shall not be construed to create any liability on the part of a participant in a youth sports event or to abrogate any immunity or defense available to a participant in a youth sports event.  As used in this act, "school or community sponsored youth sports event" means a competition, practice or instructional event involving one or more interscholastic sports teams or youth sports teams organized pursuant to a nonprofit or similar charter or which are member teams in a youth league organized by or affiliated with a county or municipal recreation department and shall not include collegiate, semi-professional or professional sporting events.

(cf:  P.L.2010, c.109, s.1) 

 

     3.    This act shall take effect immediately. 

 

 

STATEMENT

 

 

     This bill would make it easier for prosecutors to obtain convictions for vehicular homicide or assault by auto against a person who illegally uses a cell phone while driving and, as a result, kills or injures someone. 

     A person is guilty of death by auto or assault by auto when it is proven that he or she drove a motor vehicle recklessly.  This bill specifically provides that the illegal use of a cell phone while driving would give rise to an inference 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 bill is designated as “Kulesh and Kubert’s Law” after Helen Kulesh who was tragically killed by a person who was using a cell phone while driving, and David and Linda Kubert who were both severely injured by a driver who was illegally using a cell phone.