20 years ago it was not uncommon to for a person convicted of automobile manslaughter to avoid going to jail entirely. Sentences in cases we have handled have ranged from zero to 18 months. This week the Washington Post reported that a woman was sentenced to serve 20 years for automobile manslaughter for a drunk driving accident that resulted in 2 deaths.
Serrette sentenced Mate to 20 years in prison — more than sentencing guidelines called for and a year less than the maximum allowed by law. The judge acknowledged that Mate had been sexually abused as a child and suffered from alcoholism.
But Serrette stressed that Mate had twice before been convicted of driving while intoxicated and shouldn’t have been behind the wheel that night because her license had been suspended.
“You had repeated wake-up calls that you ignored,” Serrette told Mate. Her actions had destroyed three families: those of the victims and her own, the judge said.
This sentence exemplifies a trend to punish drunk driving and bad driving more harshly across the board and illustrates the importance of getting the best legal representation one can afford. In a growing number of states including California, Alaska, New York and MIssouri, fatal drunk driving accidents are now prosecuted as murder. A Phoenix man received a 20 year sentence for his 6th and 7th felony DUI offenses – no one was killed or hurt. A Denver woman received 15 years for a fatal drunk driving accident last year. A Waco man received a life sentence for his 9th DUI since 1984.
In Maryland, this get tough effort has resulted in the enactment of a law effective October 1, 2011, making it possible to prosecute drivers for what is called criminally negligent manslaughter. This new crime carries up to 3 years in jail for someone who “fails to perceive” that their driving which caused a death was unsafe.
What each of the cited cases has in common is they each involved repeat DUI offenders. Whether you agree or disagree with this take no prisoners approach of legislatures, prosecutors and courts in a growing number of jurisdictions, the need for competent and experienced defense counsel cannot be debated. Most DUIs are defensible. Our website and book are filled with issues that can be raised in defense of a DUI case. Unfortunately most lawyers who handle these cases plead their clients guilty without any thought of fighting the case. We don’t know if any of the convicted drunk drivers could have won any of the cases that resulted in the lengthy sentences, or in any of their previous cases. We do know that competent representation makes a difference.
If you are facing serious criminal or traffic charges in Maryland call Leonard R. Stamm or Johanna Leshner of Goldstein & Stamm, P.A. at 301-345-0122 for a free consultation.
Leonard R. Stamm
Goldstein & Stamm, P.A.
6301 Ivy Lane, Suite 504
Greenbelt, Maryland 20770
Author: West’s Maryland DUI Law