You don’t have to be an attorney to understand that drunk driving is a serious crime that carries harsh, often long-lasting penalties. But as with most criminal charges, there are various degrees. The circumstances of the crash can affect the amount of jail time you face or the fines you’re ordered to pay.

Take the example of an Englewood, New Jersey, man who crashed his car early Friday morning. Police investigators accused him of driving drunk when he failed to negotiate a curve, drove onto the sidewalk and ran into several trees. The wreck killed two of his passengers and injured two more. The 50-year-old driver was arrested and taken to a hospital for treatment of broken ribs and a punctured lung.

Because of the fatalities in the crash, the driver was charged with vehicular homicide. But there’s more to it than that. The crash occurred within 1,000 feet of both a high school and a middle school. As a result, he faces a higher degree of that charge. “According to New Jersey law, when a collision caused by the actions of an intoxicated driver occurs within 1,000 feet of school property, vehicular homicide is a crime of the first degree, punishable by up to 20 years in prison,” the prosecutor in the case said. The driver was also charged with driving while intoxicated, reckless driving and failure to maintain lane.

Because multiple charges of varying degrees are common in a drunk driving arrest, suspects, including this one, may want to consider working with an attorney with experience in DUI or DWI defense. A lawyer who is highly familiar with New Jersey’s drunk driving laws and arrest procedures may be in a better position to have some of your charges reduced or dropped, depending on the circumstances. Given the consequences of drunk driving convictions, a consultation may be in your best interest.

Source:, “Englewood man faces vehicular homicide charges for crash that killed two,” S.P. Sullivan, Jan. 23, 2012