A bill inspired by a fatal boating accident in Brick that would increase the penalties for leaving the scene of a boating accident that results in a serious or fatal injury cleared the state Senate on Tuesday.
The legislation passed the Senate in a 39-0 vote. If passed by the state General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Chris Christie, the penalties for leaving the scene of a boating accident where someone is killed or seriously injured would be effectively identical to those one would face if the accident had occurred in a car.
As it stands now, while illegal, there is no set penalty for such an offense under state law which means someone convicted of leaving the scene would face no more than a $25 fine.
The bill was sponsored by Sen. James Holzapfel (R-Ocean), a former Ocean County prosecutor, in the wake of a fatal boating accident in Brick that claimed the life of Robert Post, an Essex Fells resident who owned a summer home in Point Pleasant Borough.
In the case, a Brick man, Anthony DiGilio, then 29, was charged with operating his Imperial performance boat recklessly and then speeding away from the scene of the accident. Though his damaged boat was recovered and he eventually faced vehicular homicide charges, DiGilio was found not guilty in April 2013.
After the jury's verdict, interest in strengthening the "leaving the scene" law spiked and the bill – held up for years in the state legislature – began to move.
Under the proposed law, if an accident results in serious bodily injury, a person who leaves the scene could face a third degree criminal charge, punishable by three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000. If the accident results in a person's death, the charge would be upgraded to the second degree, bringing with it a potential five to 10 year prison term and a fine of up to $250,000.
"Jail time is a necessary punishment for offenders who knowingly leave the scene of the accident," Holzapfel said in a statement previously. "We want our residents to put safety first when heading out onto the water and understand that they are responsible for their craft and searching for other injured parties."