Governor signs Muñoz and Bucco bill strengthening penalties for drunk drivers who kill someone

TRENTON, N.J. – Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Nancy F. Muñoz and Assemblyman Anthony Bucco increasing penalties for deaths caused by drunk drivers. Ralph & David’s Law, named for two drunk driving victims, establishes a 3rd degree crime called strict liability vehicular homicide.

“The punishment will fit the crime with this new law,” said Muñoz (R-Union). “A drunk driver behind the wheel puts lives in danger. There will be a severe price to pay if they kill someone.”

The penalty for a crime of the third degree is three to five years in prison, a fine up to $15,000, or both. The law removes the presumption of non-imprisonment for first-time offenders.

“Getting a justifiable punishment for a drunk driver who takes a life has been extremely difficult,” said Bucco (R-Morris). “Thirty days for killing a little boy isn’t justice. Ralph & David’s Law addresses a serious weakness in our laws.”

David Heim was 13 years old in 2004 when he was run over and killed by a drunk driver who was sentenced to only 30 days in jail. Ralph Politi Jr. was a young businessman who was struck and fatally injured by an intoxicated driver who swerved on to the shoulder in 2012. The driver was acquitted of first-degree aggravated manslaughter and second-degree vehicular manslaughter.