New Jersey Drunk Driving Defense News: Sussex County Woman Guilty in Fatal Drug DUI Accident

It’s a fair bet that most people don’t wake up in the morning thinking, “I’m going to have a drunk driving accident.” But time and time again, residents of the Garden State do wake up and sometime later that day they get behind the wheel of an automobile in a possibly intoxicated state. Some will be stopped by police and be issued a summons for driving under the influence of alcohol. Others may be arrested for driving while impaired because they didn’t realize their prescription medication caused drowsiness and loss of concentration.

The point we make here, as New Jersey DWI defense lawyers, is that there are numerous ways in which a person can be cited for drunken driving. Whether you live in Essex, Bergen or Ocean County, a charge of driving while intoxicated or operating a motor vehicle under the influence of prescription or illicit drugs (drug DWI or DUI) can complicate a person’s life down the road. Being charged with DWI and vehicular homicide following a fatal drunk driving crash is certainly the most serious.

But deadly drunken driving collisions do occur, and they can happen to almost anyone. Not long ago, a woman from Sussex County, NJ, was found guilty in the drug-DUI related traffic death of a 16-year-old West Milford boy back in 2008. According to news reports, the 39-year-old defendant, Julie Michaels, was found guilty on several charges that came out of that fatal crash.

Following a two-month long trial, it took the jury a couple days of deliberations to arrive at a verdict for Michaels, who was found guilty of vehicular homicide, assault by auto and four less serious charges. The woman will have to wait until May 13 for sentencing. The jury believed that Michaels had caused the fatal accident that killed Dylan Vecchiarelli, a passenger in the vehicle Michaels struck on March 3, 2008.

Based on court records, the defendant had crossed the centerline along a stretch of Rte 23 in Hardyston, her Jeep then hit head-on a Mitsubishi sedan driven by Danilo Diaz. Diaz survived the crash, but Vecchiarelli received numerous internal injuries and died at Morristown Memorial Hospital about a month later.

Test results showed Michaels was operating her vehicle under the influence of large quantities of both Xanax and cocaine, according to the prosecution. Police stated that the woman’s driver’s license was also under suspension at the time of the accident.

In addition to the other charges, Michaels was also found guilty of possession of cocaine, a third-degree crime. Prosecutors showed that the defendant had also provided police and hospital personnel with multiple birth dates and a false name and town of residence. Michaels apparently has two previous felony convictions for possession of a controlled dangerous substance (CDS); one in New Jersey and another out-of-state. Prosecutors are expected to recommend an extended-term sentence, which could mean as much as 20 years behind bars for the vehicular homicide charge.

Michaels guilty in fatal crash, NJHerald.com, March 18, 2011