People charged with driving under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or other chemically mind-altering substances have a long road ahead of them, in terms of court appearances, potential trials, and their sentencing, which could include jail time or heavy fines, depending on the severity of the offense and the record they currently have. But when a drunk driving accident results in the injury or death of another driver or pedestrian, a DUI/DWI charge becomes a lot more complicated, drunk driving lawyers in New Jersey say.
Last month, a 33-year-old driver was charged with drunk driving as well as three counts of assault by auto after he crashed into a police cruiser and the officer, who was outside the vehicle conducting a traffic stop at the time. According to the report, Jesse J. Petryk, from Cherry Hill, was driving an SUV, and crashed into the officer’s car, which had been pulled off on the shoulder of the highway. He then hit Monroe Township Patrolman Anthony Vezza, injuring him and the two people who were inside the vehicle that Officer Vezza had pulled over. Vezza was treated for a broken leg and knee.
Officers have yet to disclose why they charged Petryk with drunk driving, as there is no public evidence of a Breathalyzer or chemical test being administered, and it is unclear whether Petryk submitted to a field sobriety test, or if officers found evidence of alcohol in the vehicle. But the assault by auto charges can be tough to fight, especially when combined with an already illegal activity.
According to the New Jersey Criminal Code, Section 2C:12-1, there are several different types of assault charges that can be pressed, each based on the level of violence committed, the intent of the actor, and the injuries sustained by the victim. A simple assault is committed when a person purposefully or recklessly causes bodily injury to another, by use of a dangerous weapon, or by physical menace. This includes threatening to commit bodily injury. The next level up is aggravated assault, which is charged when the offender has attempted to or has caused significant physical injury, either temporary or permanent, with a deadly weapon like a gun, or a car in some cases.
Assault by auto can be charged as a disorderly person’s offense, or as a second, third, or fourth degree crime, depending on the circumstances. If a driver is reckless, and intoxicated behind the wheel, and caused injury to someone else, this is considered a fourth-degree crime of DWI/DUI assault by auto, and the penalties could range from 18 months in state prison and fines up to $10,000. If serious bodily injury is caused, a DWI/DUI assault by auto charge is labeled as a third-degree crime, and could land a driver in prison for up to 5 years, with fines up to $150,000.
If your charges are compound, you need legal consultation from a drunk driving attorney with a working knowledge of both DUI crimes and criminal activity. For a consultation about your case, contact a drunk driving attorney at New Jersey law firm Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA.