Bill Named for North Haledon Teenager, Michelle Sous, Victim of Fatal Car Accident last March on High Mountain Road, Tragedy Took Place on St. Patrick’s Day
(Trenton) – Assembly Democrats Benjie E. Wimberly, Shavonda Sumter, Charles Mainor and Gordon Johnson recently introduced legislation that would require a blood sample to be obtained from a driver involved in a motor vehicle accident that results in a fatality.
The legislation is named for Michelle Sous, 17-year-old North Haledon resident, who was struck by a car while crossing High Mountain Road in March on St. Patrick’s Day. Michelle died at the scene of the accident. The driver of the vehicle was not tested for alcohol and drug influence. Current law requires the arriving police officer to determine probable cause prior to issuing blood test.
The sponsors note that this bill would take existing requirements of a blood test in criminal motor vehicle investigations one step forward.
“Currently, an individual has to exhibit flagrant acts of intoxication- staggering, slurring of speech or odor of alcohol – to be sent for a blood test,” said Wimberly (D-Bergen, Passaic). “When they refuse to take it, the officer must then obtain a warrant to compel the individual. By requiring this form of sobriety test, this legislation would allow law enforcement to take direct action in a vehicle accident that causes the death of someone involved.”
Under the proposed legislation, a person is deemed to have given consent to the taking of a blood sample just as a person is deemed to have given consent to a Breathalyzer test. The provisions of this bill extend the state’s implied consent law to include blood testing to determine if the person was under the influence of drugs.
“Anytime tragedy strikes, especially in a situation involving our youth, we seek answers to the questions: what, how and why,” said Sumter (D-Bergen, Passaic). “This legislation would help law enforcement find answers by ruling out alcohol and drug involvement in any future tragedies involving motor vehicles.”
“Confirming sobriety is one step in getting to the bottom of what caused the accident,” said Mainor (D-Hudson). “It would support law enforcement task to appropriately charging anyone at fault.”
“A car accident resulting in loss of life is reason enough to investigate the scene thoroughly,” said Johnson (D- Bergen). “The intention of this legislation is to make sure the driver was sober at the time of the accident.”
The bill would require a person who refuses to consent to the blood test would be subject to the same penalties as a person who is convicted of refusal in relation to a drunk-driving charge. If enacted, the legislation would take effect immediately.