Reckless Driving and Eluding Law Enforcement Offenses: State v. Watson

State v. Watson:

Submitted by New Jersey Criminal Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.

In September 2016, a woman reported her car had been stolen from her boyfriend’s house and her two debit cards were missing. Store surveillance photos showed a person using one of the cards and leaving in a vehicle similar to the victim’s. Police spotted the stolen vehicle three weeks later and attempted to pull the car over. As a result, the driver took off and the police gave chase. Subsequently, the officers apprehended and arrested the driver/defendant, and also issued him traffic summonses, including one for reckless driving, N.J.S.A. 39:4-96. Defendant was convicted of third-degree receiving stolen property (count three), N.J.S.A. 2C:20-7(a), and second-degree eluding (count five), N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2(b). He was sentenced to an aggregate term of nine years in prison and ordered to pay $1000 in restitution. Defendant later appealed his conviction and sentence for receiving stolen property and second-degree eluding.

On appeal, the defendant argued that when the court read the statutory definition of reckless driving, it did not provide the jury with sufficient guidance to determine if defendant had the required intent. He further contended the court should have instructed the jury to disregard the “risk of death or injury to any person” element, if they determined defendant’s violation of the reckless driving statute involved a risk of damage to property only, and not injury to a person.

The appellate court found that the trial court relied on the model jury instructions and its instruction was not of such a nature as to have been clearly capable of producing an unjust result. The “risk of death or injury” element was tried under the permissive inference portion of the statute based on the reckless motor vehicle charge and trial court instructed jury on the statutory definition of reckless driving and defined “injury” consistent with N.J.S.A. 2C:11-1(a). Although the case was affirmed in part, it was still remanded to the trial court to make findings about defendant’s ability to pay restitution he owed the woman for the damage caused to her vehicle.

At Hark & Hark, we represent clients for appeals in Superior Court for issues like the present case pertaining to reckless driving and eluding law enforcement offenses. We work hard to ensure that our clients receive exceptional representation so that they receive the most favorable outcome as a result.

We offer payment plan options to clients financially incapable of providing full payment upfront. If you are facing a similar situation to that of the defendant in this case, please call us to discuss the matter. At Hark & Hark, we represent clients for any case in any county in New Jersey including Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Mercer, Ocean, and Salem counties.



Criminal Civil Lawyer

Jeffrey Hark is a New Jersey Civil and Criminal Lawyer.

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