Assault by Automobile

Assault by automobile is a serious charge. It is a crime, even though it is generally the result of reckless behavior, and not the intent to injure. Whether you have committed the crime and at what level depend on a complicated combination of factors.

The statute defining assault by automobile is N.J.S.A 2C:12-1(c). The factors that determine whether an offense was committed and the degree of the offense are the following:

  • The degree of seriousness to the victim,
  • Whether the defendant was sober,
  • Whether the injury took place within 1000 feet of school property or at a school crossing.

To be guilty of any level of assault by automobile, you must have been driving recklessly. That means that you did not intend to injure the victim, but were more than merely negligent. Also, all levels of assault by automobile require at least a level of injury that the statute calls bodily injury. That is, pain, illness or impairment of physical condition.

If those two minimum conditions are met, without any of the other factors applicable to the statute, the offense is a disorderly persons offense, punishable by fine of up to $1000 and prison term of up to 6 months.

  • It becomes a 4th Degree Crime if there is Bodily Injury and either...
    • the defendant was driving while intoxicated, or
    • the defendant was driving aggressively toward another vehicle
  • The offense rises to a 3rd Degree Crime if there is Bodily Injury and...
    • the defendant was driving while intoxicated, and
    • the injury occurred within 1000 feet of a school or school property, or at a school crossing

If the victim suffered serious bodily injury, the degree of the offense is one degree higher than where bodily injury was the result. Serious bodily injury is permanent disfigurement, risk of death, loss, or impairment of any body part or organ. Therefore, the level of the crime for cases of serious bodily injury is as follows:

  • It is a 4th Degree Crime for Serious Bodily Injury and no other factors.
  • It is a 3rd Degree Crime for Serious Bodily Injury and either...
    • the defendant was driving while intoxicated, or
    • the defendant was driving aggressively toward another vehicle
  • It is a 2nd Degree Crime for Serious Bodily Injury and...
    • the defendant was driving while intoxicated, and
    • the injury occurred within 1000 feet of a school or school property, or at a school crossing

A fourth degree crime is punishable by 6 to 18 months imprisonment and up to $10,000. A third degree crime is punishable by 3 to 5 years imprisonment and up to $15,000 in fines. A second degree crime is punishable by 5 to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000.

As you can see, these possible criminal consequences are severe and the statutes are complicated. The NJ criminal defense lawyers at LS&P Lawyers can help you sort out complexities, decide on the best strategy for your situation, and represent you in negotiations with the prosecutor and at trial before the court. Call us at (908) 709-0500. The consultation is free.