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Vehicular Homicide
Motor vehicle crashes causing a fatality or severe injury occur on Passaic County’s roads at the rate of approximately one per week. Determining whether the crash was an accident or one for which the driver should be held criminally liable is the responsibility of the Prosecutor’s Vehicular Homicide Unit.

The investigators in this unit, all of whom are certified accident reconstructionists, are on-call 24 hours/7 days per week as they must arrive at a crash scene while the evidence is fresh and before the roadway can be re-opened to the public. In making a determination on the potential criminal liability of the driver, the accident reconstructionists utilize state-of-the-art computer programs, measurement devices and photography equipment, as well as statements from witnesses, in order to reconstruct how the accident occurred. A recent grant from the New Jersey Division of Highway Safety enabled the unit to purchase much of its high tech equipment.

The investigator’s report, the police reports, the statements of witnesses, the autopsy report, the results of tests of the driver’s breath and blood, and a scale drawing of the accident scene are given to the assistant prosecutor in charge of the unit for review. If the evidence points to the criminal liability of the driver, the assistant prosecutor presents the case to a Grand Jury, and, if an indictment is returned, he handles the trial or plea.

Increasingly, defendants in vehicular homicide and assault cases are opting to go to trial as opposed to accepting a plea bargain. This trend is due to recent strengthening of the vehicular homicide and vehicular assault laws by the New Jersey State legislature. The degrees of the crimes have been increased and vehicular homicide is now subject to the provisions of the "No Early Release Act", which means that a defendant sentenced to a state prison sentence must serve 85% of the sentence before being eligible for parole.