N.J. high court considers jail time for careless driving

The New Jersey Supreme Court is considering whether a jail sentence is justified for those convicted of careless driving.

The justices heard arguments Monday in the case of a woman who was sentenced to 15 days in jail for careless driving after her car struck a pedestrian in Red Bank in 2010, and the victim died two months later.

Assistant Monmouth County Prosecutor Paul Heinzel argued that a mild jail term is proportionate to the harm caused.

“The harm to the victim, the circumstance of the offense, and the need to deter weigh qualitatively very heavily in favor of a jail sentence here,” he said.

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The driver was not reckless, said attorney Paul Zager as he argued against sending anyone to jail for careless driving.

“If you commit something that’s careless, you should not get jail time,” he said. “It’s as simple as that even if there is an unfortunate death.”

A jail sentence for a careless driving offense is almost unheard of, said Justice Barry Albin.

“Don’t you think that municipal court judges and law division judges need some criteria in order to determine whether or not to impose a jail sentence for careless driving, which is probably the most common charge filed in our municipal courts?” he said.

The eventual decision from the Supreme Court will guide municipal court judges in handing out punishments.

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