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Teen avoids jail on felony DUI charges

An 18-year-old man from Kannapolis, North Carolina, was facing three counts of felony intoxicated driving in an accident that resulted in the death of his friend and injuries to two other passengers in his car. Charges, however, were reduced, because the results of blood alcohol tests showed that he was not legally intoxicated. His blood alcohol concentration was less than the legal limit of .08 for DUI intoxication. He ultimately pleaded guilty to a charge of reckless homicide. The accident occurred in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, after the high school graduation of everyone in the car in June.

The death and injuries occurred after the 18-year-old went through a traffic light, after which the vehicle was T-boned. His guilty plea still could have been grounds for up to a 10-year period of incarceration. But then the mother of his passenger who died in the accident, as well as the two passengers who were injured and their mothers, wrote letters to the trial judge urging him not to send the youth to jail. As a result, no incarceration was ordered.

The mother of the boy who died acknowledged that the defendant had no intention to kill his best friend and has been punished enough just by being the driver in this tragic accident. The defendant, who is 18-years-old, currently attends North Carolina A&T State University, which is located in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Those sending the letters to the judge all obviously recognized that there was absolutely no reason to compound the tragedy of what was, after all, just an accident.

The judge did impose a five-year sentence, but suspended all of it. The defendant walked out of court with no jail term staring him in the face and only a probation reporting obligation. This result showed that a judge, prosecutor and family members of those killed or injured in an accident can show understanding and compassion to a driver accused of DUI and convicted of reckless homicide. The preparation and presentation of the criminal defense attorney undoubtedly had much to do with it too.

Source: My Horry News, "Caring families help N.C. teen avoid jail" Kathy Ropp, Dec. 19, 2013

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