If you or your passengers don’t wear a seat belt you could face jail time

If a driver doesn’t use a seat belt or doesn’t make their passengers use one, then the driver could face jail time. The Seat Belt Law, enacted in 1984, has not been used in this way until now. Previously, the Seat Belt Law would be a traffic ticket that would require a municipal court appearance, now violators could go to state prison. The amount of jail time being faced depends on the injuries involved. The new criminal charges are through a public health law people who violate a law that protects “public health.”

Now that the Supreme Court has made it clear the seat belt law can bring criminal penalties, the question becomes, what sentences can the Seat Belt Law carry?

The N.J.S.A. 2C:40-18 carries different sentences depending on the severity of harm to the individual.

  • A person is guilty of a second degree violation of N.J.S.A. 2C: 40-18 if “the person knowingly violates a law intended to protect the public health and safety or knowingly fails to perform a duty imposed by a law intended to protect the public health and safety if the individual recklessly causes death.”  A second degree violation carries a sentence of five to ten years in state prison.
  • A person is guilty of a crime of the third degree if the person knowingly violates a law intended to protect the public health and safety or knowingly fails to perform a duty imposed by a law intended to protect the public health and safety and recklessly causes serious bodily injury.  A third degree violation carries a sentence of 3-5 years in state prison.
  • A person is guilty of a crime of the fourth degree if the person knowingly violates a law intended to protect the public health and safety or knowingly fails to perform a duty imposed by a law intended to protect the public health and safety and recklessly causes significant bodily injury.  A fourth degree violation carries a sentence of up to 18 months in state prison.

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