CASE STUDY # 3
N.J.S. 2C:29-2(b) ELUDING BY AUTO, 2nd degree, exposed to 10 years jail time
On 4/24/14,1 was retained to defend a 33 year old male who while operating an automobile on the New Jersey Turnpike in Woodbridge Township at 2 o’clock A.M., had been pulled over by State police for speeding. Defendant brought his automobile to a full stop. But when the trooper walked up to the driver’s side window, my client improvidently sped off and exited the turnpike via a nearby exit ramp. A high speed chase ensued during which he managed to get away. He was apprehended the next day at his house by troopers who had ascertained his identity from observing his license plate.
He was charged with Eluding By Auto, a 2nd degree offense, punishable if convicted, by a fine of up to $ 150,000.00, jail time of a minimum of five (5) years and a maximum of ten (10) years, with a presumption of incarceration (mandatory jail time) and a felony criminal record. Additionally, he was charged with driving while driver’s license suspended in violation of NJS 39:3-40, speeding over 34 m.p.h. over speed limit in violation of NJS 39:19-9.1.34, reckless driving in violation of NJS 39:4-96, improper lane change in violation of NJS 39:4-88, and on and on totaling some 23 points.
While the actual statute is written as a 3rd degree offense, to be elevated to a 2nd degree if risk of harm/death to others can be inferred from the conduct. The facts were that the event took place early in the morning…there was virtually no traffic on the road. The client represented to me that the reason he eluded was that he knew he would be taken into custody for an outstanding traffic warrant, didn’t have bail money and did not want to spend the weekend in jail. Of course I will never know if the reason he eluded was that he was in possession of contraband. I was able to get the prosecutor to agree to extend a 3rd degree plea offer, which we accepted, provided that at the sentencing hearing he would argue for imposition of a flat four (4) years State prison and I would argue for zero (0) jail, plus noncustodial probation. The State’s position was based on the flagrancy of the offense and defendant’s criminal record, significant for two (2) prior felony convictions.
The client was sentenced by Hon. Bradley Ferencz, J.S.C., to 180 days jail time on grounds that he had a significant prior criminal history which convinced his Honor that my client had a “problem with authority”. Six (6) months, the judge felt was necessary to get his attention. He actually did approximately three (3) months before being released from custody. All traffic charges were dismissed save for the violation of 3-40 driving while suspended.