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

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.