On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Salem County, Indictment No. 05-04-00124.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Coleman, R. B., J.A.D.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted November 8, 2006
Before Judges Axelrad, R. B. Coleman and Gilroy.
Defendant Jay C. Fisher entered a conditional plea of guilty to a third degree charge of knowingly leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident resulting in death, N.J.S.A. 2C:11- 5.1. He now appeals from the January 23, 2006, order of the Law Division denying his motion to declare that statute unconstitutional. We affirm the order of the Law Division.
The challenged statute, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-5.1*fn1, provides that:
A motor vehicle operator who knows he is involved in an accident and knowingly leaves the scene of that accident under circumstances that violate the provisions of [N.J.S.A.] 39:4-129 shall be guilty of a crime of the third degree if the accident results in the death of another person.
N.J.S.A. 39:4-129, the motor vehicle statute, incorporated by reference into the challenged criminal statute provides, in pertinent part, as follows:
The driver of any vehicle, knowingly involved in an accident resulting in injury or death to any person shall immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the accident or as close thereto as possible but shall then forthwith return to and in every event shall remain at the scene until he has fulfilled the requirements of subsection (c) of this section. [N.J.S.A. 39:4-129(a).]
In turn, subsection (c) of N.J.S.A. 39:4-129 expresses the following mandate:
The driver of any vehicle knowingly involved in an accident resulting in injury or death to any person or damage to any vehicle or property shall give his name and address and exhibit his operator's license and registration certificate of his vehicle to the person injured or whose vehicle or property was damaged and to any police officer or witness of the accident, and to the driver or occupants of the vehicle collided with and render to a person injured in the accident reasonable assistance, including the carrying of that person to a hospital or a physician for medical or surgical treatment, if it is apparent that the treatment is necessary or is requested by the injured person.
In the event that none of the persons specified are in condition to receive the information to which they otherwise would be entitled under this subsection, and no police officer is present, the driver of any vehicle involved in such accident after fulfilling all other requirements of subsections (a) and (b) of this section, insofar as possible on his part to be performed, shall forthwith report such accident to the nearest office of the local police department or of the county police of the county or of the State Police and submit thereto the information specified in this subsection.
In a statement voluntarily given on Wednesday, July 30, 2005, defendant stated that he was driving home in the early morning hours of Sunday, July 27, 2005, after a night out with friends when he struck something on the roadway. Initially, he stated that this occurred on State Highway 77, but later he admitted it occurred on Richwood Road in Upper Pittsgrove Township. Defendant said he swerved his truck to avoid a dark object on the roadway, but felt the object hit his front and rear tire. Defendant did not stop at the scene and never reported the incident to the police. Defendant initially maintained that he thought he had run over the carcass of a deer. When he arrived at home, he saw a dent in his bumper and noticed that the right fog light was missing. Later that day, defendant noticed blood on the passenger side of the bed of his truck and on the lower part of the extended cab area. That afternoon, he went to his car dealership and washed the truck.
The next day, Monday, July 28, 2005, defendant was informed by an employee that there had been a hit-and-run accident on Richwood Road. It was then that defendant claims he first realized he had hit a person -- not a deer. Nevertheless, he continued to tell his co-workers he had hit a deer on State Highway 77. That day, he placed an order with his parts manager for a new fog light and bumper for his truck. Defendant stated that he reached for his telephone on ...