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Assembly Approves Mukherji & Mainor Bill to Toughen State Boating Laws, Increase Penalties for Fatal Hit-and-Run Boating Accidents
(Trenton) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Raj Mukherji and Charles Mainor (both D-Hudson) to strengthen the penalties for boaters who leave the scene of a boating accident was approved by the full Assembly on Thursday.
The legislation makes it a second degree crime if a vessel operator knowingly leaves the scene of an accident that result in the death of another person and a crime of the third degree if the accident results in serious bodily injury mirroring penalties for leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident on the roadways. Under current law, the operator of a vessel is only required to provide assistance to people affected by an accident so long as that operator is able to do so without endangering passengers.
"The penalty must fit the crime, and in the case of hit-and-run boating accidents, it does not," Mukherji said. "As it stands, boaters who skip out after an accident are receiving no more than a slap on the wrist. State law governing our waterways needs revision to ensure irresponsible boaters are properly penalized for their actions."
"A hit-and-run is a serious crime whether you are driving a car or a boat," Mainor said. "It's a cowardly act that should have the same stringent penalties regardless of the vehicle involved. We are concerned about the safety of all drivers. This legislation ensures us that those individuals who are recklessly driving on our waterways and roadways are subject to the same penalties."
The bill is modeled after current motor vehicle law, which makes it a second degree crime to leave the scene of an accident that results in the death of a passenger, and a third degree crime when the accident results in serious bodily injury. A second degree crime is punishable by five to 10 years imprisonment, a fine of up to $150,000, or both. A third degree crime is punishable by three to five years imprisonment, a fine of up to $15,000, or both.
Current law defines "serious bodily injury" as bodily injury which creates a substantial risk of death or which causes serious, permanent disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ. The bill specifies that its provisions do not preclude an indictment and conviction for aggravated manslaughter or vehicular homicide. In addition it specifies that its provisions are not to merge with a conviction for aggravated manslaughter or vehicular homicide. Sentences for multiple offenses arising under this committee substitute are to run consecutively.
The bill also provides that it is not a defense that the vessel operator lacked knowledge of the death or injury, or knowledge of the violation under the committee substitute. The bill will also amend current law to enhance the penalties for failure of an operator to assist persons affected by an accident. The penalties for a first offense are a fine of not less than $200 or more than $400, imprisonment for a period of not more than 30 days, or both. For a subsequent offense, the measure imposes a fine of not less than $400 or more than $600, imprisonment for a period of not less than 30 days or more than 90 days, or both.
The measure passed 78-0. The bill was released by the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee on Thursday, May 15.
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