New Law Makes Leaving the Scene of a Fatal Boating Accident a Second-Degree Crime
(TRENTON) — Bipartisan legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Raj Mukherji and Charles Mainor to strengthen the penalties for boaters who leave the scene of a boating accident was recently signed into law.
The new law (formerly A-2725) makes knowingly leaving the scene of a boating accident which results in the death of another person a second-degree crime and makes it a third-degree crime if the accident results in serious bodily injury, mirroring penalties for leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident.
Previously, the operator of a vessel was only required to provide assistance to people affected by an accident so long as that operator could do so without endangering passengers.
“The penalty must fit the crime, and in the case of hit-and-run boating accidents, it did not,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson). “State law governing our waterways now ensures that irresponsible boaters will be properly penalized for their actions.”
“A hit-and-run is a serious crime whether you are operating a car or a boat,” said Mainor (D-Hudson). “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 residents. This law ensures that those individuals who are recklessly traveling on our waterways and our roadways are subject to the same penalties.”
The new law is modeled after existing state motor vehicle laws, which make it a second-degree crime — punishable by five to 10 years imprisonment, a fine of up to $150,000, or both — to leave the scene of an accident that results in the death of a passenger, and a third-degree crime — punishable by three to five years imprisonment, a fine of up to $15,000, or both — when the accident results in serious bodily injury. In addition, the law specifies that sentences for multiple offenses are to run consecutively.
The law also provides that lacking knowledge of the death or injury is not a defense and enhances the penalties for failure of an operator to assist persons affected by an accident. The penalties for a first offense are a $200 to $400 fine, imprisonment for a period of not more than 30 days or both. For a subsequent offense, the law imposes a $400 to $600 fine, imprisonment for a period of not less than 30 days or more than 90 days or both.
The new law takes effect immediately.