New Jersey DWI and Aggravated Manslaughter – First Degree Charge
14-2-3474 State v. Liepe, App. Div. (per curiam) (11 pp.)
The serious issue presented in this case is the prosecutor’s decision to charge an individual with aggravated manslaughter, a first degree charge exposing the defendant to a possible jail term between 10-20 years in New Jersey State prison.
Determining “Reckless” in Aggravated Manslaughter (First Degree Charge)
The key terms in the 1st degree charge are: the ‘recklessly’ causing the death of ‘another under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to human life’. When looking at ‘recklessness’ the court acknowledged and accepted the prosecutor’s grand jury evidence presented at this stage of the prosecution, that a jury could find the defendant ‘disregarded a substantial and unjustifiable risk that death will result’ and given the circumstances known to him, the defendant’s disregard involved a gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a reasonable person would observe in the actor situation.
Hence, the trial court erred in dismissing the indictment under State vs. Hogan. Essentially, the court ruled the state is entitled to present evidence to the grand jury that the actors conduct moves in to the aggravated manslaughter, 1st degree’ realm, when the defendant’s conduct elevates the risk level from mere possibility to a probability.
Factually, the court was ruling that a blood alcohol level of .192 BAC, which resulted in a motor vehicle collision death of another together with the expert testimony addressing the significantly increased risk of harm posed by a driver with a .192 BAC was sufficient to support the aggravated manslaughter charge.