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State v. Palma - New Jersey Appellate Division Holds That Pedestrian Death Does Not Result In Per Se Jail Sentence

The Appellate Division, in a per curiam decision, vacated defendant's jail sentence and remanded the case, State v. Palma, A-3473-10, for development of a record of aggravating and mitigating factors in lieu of a hard-line rule whereby a pedestrian death would be dispositive to sentence a driver to jail.

Per the decision:

"Defendant's guilty plea arose out of a motor vehicle accident that took place on February 22, 2010, in Red Bank.  Defendant was traveling eastbound on Bergen Place, then stopped at a red light at the intersection with Broad Street.  After the light turned green, she made a left turn and proceeded northbound on Broad Street.  At that time, a motorist in the southbound lane signaled to defendant that she had just hit a pedestrian.  Defendant immediately stopped her SUV.  Unbeknownst to defendant, she had dragged the pedestrian, who was lodged underneath her car, down Broad Street.  Almost two months later, the victim died of injuries incurred in the accident.

"Defendant voluntarily submitted to a blood test, which revealed she was not using intoxicating substances.  Defendant also voluntarily produced her cellular phone records, which did not reveal that she was using her cell phone at the time of the accident.  There was no evidence defendant intentionally struck the victim or had fallen asleep while driving.  There was also no credible evidence defendant had run the traffic signal, exceeded the speed limit, or had acted recklessly.  As a result, the State charged defendant with careless driving, to which she entered a plea of guilty."

More after the jump...