Legislation giving prosecutors discretion to hand out harsher penalties to drivers who fail to maintain a traffic lane was approved by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee on Friday.
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 bill (S-2342/A4062) amends the law so drivers who cause fatal accidents because they failed to maintain their lane can be charged with vehicular homicide. It was sponsored by the 8th District delegation of Senator Dawn Marie Addiego and Assemblyman Joe Howarth.
Known as “Eileen’s Law,” the measure was written by Addiego following the tragic death of Eileen Marmino, a special education teacher at Burlington City High School and the mother of twins. The 34-year-old Medford woman was struck and killed by a driver who swerved into a bicycle lane in July 2015.
“The loss of a precious life was made even harder to bear when the driver could only be charged with a mere traffic ticket,” Addiego said. “This bill unties the hands of prosecutors and allows them discretion when a driver’s negligence leads to the loss of an innocent life.”
Prosecutors have explained there was no basis for charges against the driver. In a criminal prosecution, the burden is to establish gross recklessness on the part of the driver. The sponsors worked closely with the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office to draft the legislation.
The bill makes it a crime of the third degree for vehicular homicide by failing to maintain a lane. The charge is punishable by three to five years in prison and a $15,000 fine.
“Hopefully, changing the law will provide a certain level of closure to Eileen’s family that it wasn’t provided before,” Howarth said. “We want to prevent a terrible incident like this from happening again, while making sure that no other families have to see the life of a loved one reduced to a $300 ticket.”
Eileen’s Law was approved by the Assembly in December. It will now head to the Senate floor.
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