State v. Bell

The New Jersey Supreme Court considered whether leaving the scene of an accident resulting in the death of another person can be charged separately for each victim killed in a single accident. The defendant struck with his car a bicycle ridden by two boys, who were killed. The State charged the defendant with two counts of leaving the scene of a fatal accident. The defendant moved to dismiss the second count, arguing that the act of leaving can be prosecuted once per accident, regardless of the number of fatalities caused by the accident. The trial court denied the motion. The defendant pleaded guilty to two counts of leaving the scene of a fatal accident and reserved the right to appeal the trial court’s interpretation of the statute. The Appellate Division reversed the trial court. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the number of fatalities that may result from the accident is not an element of the offense. Thus, only one count of the crime may be charged per accident, regardless of the number of victims. The Court remanded the case to the trial court to permit the parties to negotiate a new plea agreement or go to trial.

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