Legislation sponsored by Senator Dawn Marie Addiego (R-8) to make it easier for prosecutors to obtain a conviction of vehicular homicide against a driver who failed to maintain their lane has been approved by the Senate Law & Public Safety Committee.
Bruce and Eileen Lafferty testified in favor of S-2342 during a Senate Law & Public Safety Committee hearing on September 29, 2016. The legislation, Eileen’s Law, is named in honor of their late daughter, Eileen Marmino. (SenateNJ.com)
The measure, S-2342, was introduced to address deficiencies in current law that were identified following the tragic death of Medford resident Eileen Marmino, who was a wife, a mother of young twins, and a special education science teacher at Burlington City High School.
“It’s almost inconceivable that a driver who recklessly swerves out of their lane can’t be held accountable for killing somebody,” said Addiego. “Unless we start to prosecute more drivers for the deaths they cause, more families will suffer as the Marminos have since Eileen was taken from them.”
Marmino was struck and killed by driver who entered the designated bike lane where she was riding.
According to impact statements filed by the family, the driver is documented to have said that she thought she had hit “something,” and was not even aware that she had struck and killed a person, Mrs. Marmino.
The driver had also reportedly struck a mailbox approximately a quarter-mile before the fatal impact.
“If you’re so distracted that you don’t realize your car has left its lane and has hit a mailbox and a person, it’s clear you’re operating your vehicle recklessly,” said Bruce Lafferty, Eileen’s father. “It’s sickening as a father who has lost his daughter to a distracted driver to know that our current laws don’t allow for vehicular homicide charges under these circumstances. In our case, Eileen’s life was found to be worth less than $300, the amount her killer paid in fines. The passage of Eileen’s Law will address this inequity and help prevent other families from knowing the pain we have felt since Eileen was taken from us so abruptly.”
Under Addiego’s legislation, proof that the defendant failed to maintain a lane may give rise to the inference that the defendant was engaged in reckless driving, allowing for charges of vehicular homicide.
The legislation makes vehicular homicide a crime of the third degree if the driver failed to maintain a lane, subjecting a defendant upon conviction to a term of imprisonment of three to five years and a fine of up to $15,000.
“The driver who took Eileen’s life received less than $300 in fines and no prison time, but we’re making sure that others don’t get off so easy for deaths caused by their reckless distracted driving,” added Addiego. “Driving distracted can be a deadly choice that we need to convince people not to make.”
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