NJ Drunk Driving News: Out-of-State Motorist Pleads Guilty in Fatal Lower Township DWI Case

According to news reports, anout-of-state driver charged in the drunk driving death of a driver from Lower Township, NJ, has pleaded guilty to that 2009 fatal crash. In addition, court records show that the defendant, 38-year-old John J. Lawless, had been charged with driving under the influence a total of eight times over the course of 13 years.

As a New Jersey DWI defense lawyer I know how serious a fatal drunken driving or drug DUI charge can be. In this case, the defendant was arrested after his vehicle struck another car driven by 50-year-old Frederick Shelton in September of last year.

Police reports show that Shelton’s vehicle was going southbound along Route 9 near Bennett’s Crossing, NJ, in Lower Township when Lawless’ vehicle came across the roadway’s centerline and smashed into Shelton’s car. Emergency responders arriving at the site of the crash pronounced Shelton dead at the scene.

The man’s wife and daughter, who were riding as passengers, were both injured in the collision. According to court records, Shelton’s wife, Sheri, was hospitalized for weeks following the incident. During the court proceedings, the defendant told the judge that he had at least a dozen beers before getting behind the wheel of his vehicle that fateful day.

According to news reports, Lawless pleaded guilty to first-degree aggravated manslaughter, which under an arranged plea agreement, the man’s prison term could range from 10 years to 30 years. Regardless of the court’s decision, Lawless will be required to serve the majority (85%) of his sentence due to New Jersey’s “No Early Release Act.”

With sentencing scheduled for late October, Lawless’ attorney asked if his client’s $200,000 bail could be made bondable to give the man a chance to leave the county jail facilities in order to resolve any personal issues before beginning what is sure to be a rather long prison term. Both the Cape May prosecutor and the judge opposed the defense’s request.

John J. Lawless, charged with DUI eight times in 13 years, pleads guilty to 2009 drunken-driving crash that killed Lower Township man, PressofAtlanticCity.com, September 13, 2010