Monmouth County Man Pleads Guilty to Vehicular Homicide following Fatal Toms River Drunk Driving Accident

Considering the number of teenagers and young adult drivers currently on Garden State roadways, DWI and drug DUI arrests involving underage drivers are bound to happen more often than not. As New Jersey drunk driving defense lawyers, my legal team understands how easily a young person can end up intoxicated and then get behind the wheel without taking into account the various consequences that may result. Safety aside, for those drivers under legal drinking age, being stopped by the police for intoxicated driving can have unintended outcomes.

The penalties for underage DWI here in New Jersey are outlined in our state’s legal statutes, specifically N.J.S.A. 39:4-50.14. The law specifies that any person under 21 years of age who operates a car, truck or motorcycle with a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of greater than 0.01 percent but less than 0.08 percent risks forfeiture of his driving privileges for one to three months. Even those individuals who do not yet have a driver’s license may face a delay in obtaining their driver’s license following a previous conviction for underage DWI.

As with most drunken driving cases, the burden of proof is on the state. Where a charge of drunken driving is at issue, the local prosecutor must show that 1) the defendant was “operating” the vehicle at the time of the offense; 2) the defendant was under the state’s legal drinking age at that time; and 3) the defendant had a BAC over 0.01 percent. Evidence of the latter is typically gained via a breathalyzer test, often obtained by using an Alcotest breath testing device or occasionally through a direct blood sample taken from the defendant at the time of the drunk driving arrest.

While the stripping of one’s license is a typical punishment, there are more serious penalties depending on the circumstances. Take, for instance, the situation described in a recent news story about a 19-year-old Toms River Twp. man who pled guilty to vehicular manslaughter in the wake of a tragic single-car accident in Monmouth County back in February of this year.

According to news reports, the accident that led to the man’s conviction took place early on a Saturday morning when Connor Hanifin apparently lost control of his compact car long a stretch of Yellow Bank Rd. not far from Vaughn Ave. Court records showed that patrolmen arriving at the crash scene found a Honda Civic off the roadway and up against some nearby trees.

The passenger riding in the car, 19-year-old Francis Duddy, also of Toms River, was pronounced dead at the crash site. Mr. Hanifin was freed from the vehicle by emergency response personnel and flown by medevac chopper to Jersey Shore University Medical Center. Officers performing a post-crash investigation reportedly found alcoholic beverage containers inside the damaged car.

The defendant was arrested a little more than a month later and charged with vehicular homicide. Since the guilty plea, the man’s sentencing, which will be up to the court, is scheduled to take place at the end of January next year.

Toms River man, 19, pleads guilty to vehicular homicide, DUI; NJ.com, October 30, 2014