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Tougher New Jersey DWI/DUI legislation awaits governor's signature

"[H]opefully Gov. Christie signs this bill right away."

So implores one New Jersey legislator who, notably, is joined in that sentiment by many other state lawmakers on both sides of the political divide that normally marks politics as usual in the Garden State.

What is bringing legislators together in broadly impressive fashion is their collectively stated support for so-called Bill A-386, the somewhat pedestrian and innocuous titling of a would-be law with real teeth in the realm of penalties imposed for a select category of drunk driving offenders in the state.

Namely, that demographic comprises New Jersey motorists who take the lives of other drivers and pedestrians while driving drunk.

Specifically, A-386 (known otherwise as "Ralph and David's Law" for individuals in the state who were killed by drunk drivers) applies to the crime of vehicular homicide, with the legislation establishing an entirely new crime denoted "strict liability vehicular homicide."

Under existing law, as noted in a recent news report on the momentum underlying support for the new bill, an intoxicated motorist whose actions proximately caused the death of another person could receive a notably short term of only 30 days in jail.

A-386 brings much more bite than that, with the third-degree crime of strict liability vehicular homicide potentially bringing a far more serious incarceration penalty (up to five years), coupled with a significant fine.

The bill has passed through the Legislature and will now be reviewed by Gov. Chris Christie. If the governor signs off on A-386, it penalties will reportedly become effective immediately.

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