Our Birmingham DUI lawyers know the judge could have given him much more time. For starters, prosecutors had first charged him with reckless murder, a charge that carries a much higher penalty than manslaughter. However a plea agreement was later reached in which he agreed to plead guilty to manslaughter and leaving the scene of an accident with injury.
Even on those charges, he could have served 30 years, but a deal allowed his defense attorney to get that down to six. Upon his release, if he violates the terms of his parole, he could potentially be sent back to prison to serve the rest of the 24 years.
According to media reports, the child was reportedly riding his bicycle near his house in the spring of 2011 in Huntsville when he was hit by the defendant, who was driving a truck.
The defendant left the scene, but was later arrested at his home.
Under state law, the defendant, who was 19 years-old at the time the crash occurred, was eligible to apply for leniency through youthful offender status. Had it been granted, he would have faced a maximum of three years behind bars. However, the deceased child’s family vehemently objected, prompting nearly 300 letters to flood the court expressing that opposition.
Perhaps realizing that the application was not likely to be granted under such opposition, the defense withdrew the request before the scheduled July hearing.
As a result of this case, at least one state representative has said he is exploring the introduction of legislation that would make defendants who have been charged with a Class A felony ineligible to obtain youthful offender status. Such offenses would include murder, first-degree rape, domestic violence, burglary, arson and kidnapping. As it stands now, youthful offender status is available to any defendant under the age of 21 who lacks any significant criminal history in the juvenile system.
If you are adjudged by the court to be a youthful offender, the judge has the discretion to do any of the following:
1. Suspend the execution or imposition of your sentence with or without probation;
2. Put you on a maximum three-year probation;
3. Impose an additional fine of up to $1,000;
4. Imprison you for up to three years, though often less;
5. If the charge is a misdemeanor, you may merely be granted either educational courses or some form of treatment, such as for substance abuse.
Because Alabama tends to be a relatively conservative state, such a classification is not awarded often. Still, it has been used in other Alabama DUI homicide cases. Back in August, another teen was sentenced to 1 year in jail, following a drunk driving accident in 2010 in which one person was killed and three others were injured. That defendant had been charged with reckless murder, yet was awarded youthful offender status, significantly cutting his sentence.