SENATE BUDGET AND APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE

 

STATEMENT TO

 

[First Reprint]

ASSEMBLY, No. 4062

 

with committee amendments

 

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

 

DATED:  JANUARY 5, 2018

 

      The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee reports favorably Assembly Bill No. 4062 (1R), with committee amendments.

      As amended, this bill assists prosecutors in establishing the element of recklessness required for obtaining a reckless vehicular homicide conviction against a person who failed to maintain a lane.

      Under current law, a person is guilty of reckless vehicular homicide when it is proven that he or she drove a motor vehicle recklessly.  Under the State’s criminal code, a person acts recklessly when he or she consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk. This bill specifically provides that failure to maintain a lane may give rise to an inference that the defendant was driving recklessly.   

       Under the bill, a person who commits reckless vehicular homicide by failing to maintain a lane is guilty of a third degree crime.  Under the bill, reckless vehicular homicide is a crime of the third degree if the defendant proves by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant did not commit any conduct constituting driving a vehicle or vessel recklessly other than failing to maintain a lane.  Third degree crimes are punishable by imprisonment of three to five years, a maximum fine of $15,000, or both.  

     The bill is named for Eileen Marmino who was killed after being struck by a motorist who veered into the bike lane in which she was riding.

     As amended and reported, this bill is identical to Senate Bill No. 2342 (1R), as also amended and reported by the committee.

 

COMMITTEE AMENDMENTS: 

      The committee amendments update the name of the offense of vehicular homicide to reckless vehicular homicide as recently changed by P.L.2017, c.16. The committee also made technical changes.

FISCAL IMPACT:

      The Office of Legislative Services (OLS) notes that the bill could increase the annual workload and expenditures of the Department of Law and Public Safety, the Office of the Public Defender, the Department of Corrections, and the State Parole Board.  The State may also receive indeterminate additional annual revenue from fines and penalties imposed on individuals convicted of the new third degree crime.  The OLS, however, lacks sufficient information to quantify the fiscal impacts, as it is unclear how many individuals would be prosecuted, tried, and sentenced for having violated the provisions of the bill in any given fiscal year.

      The bill would increase State operating expenditures if:  a) the Department of Law and Public Safety prosecutes additional defendants under the provisions of this bill; b) the Judiciary adjudicates additional cases related to the new criminal offense; c) the Office of the Public Defender provides legal representation to low-income criminal defendants who are charged with having violated the prohibitions of the bill; d) the Department of Corrections houses and cares for individuals sentenced to prison terms for having violated the prohibitions of the bill; and e) the State Parole Board supervises the return to society of those convicted.

      The OLS has no information on the additional workload and expenditures that the bill may impose on affected State departments and agencies but notes that it is unlikely that defendants convicted of the new third degree crime would be sentenced to prison terms.  This is because a presumption of non-incarceration generally applies to first-time offenders of crimes of the third degree.  To the extent that convicted defendants receive prison sentences, however, the Department of Corrections has indicated that the average estimated per capita cost to house an inmate in a State prison facility in FY 2016 totaled $45,000.  Department data also indicate that the marginal cost for food, wages and clothing for an additional prison inmate in its facilities totals $7.15 per day, or $2,610 annually.

      Any additional State cost from allowing for the criminalization of the failure to maintain a lane if such failure results in the death of another person may be offset, in full or in part, by fines and penalties imposed by the courts on persons convicted of having committed the new crime.  Fines could be as high as $15,000 per violation; however, the State’s ability to collect criminal fines and penalties has historically been limited.