Anyone who has faced a drunk driving charge in Virginia knows that the fallout can begin from the moment the allegations are leveled. Before any court proceeding is held; before any conviction is obtained; a person facing a charge of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, especially if it results in a fatal accident, can expect the full force of the law to be applied.
Ensuring that the defendant is treated fairly by the courts, with full respect to their individual rights, is likely to depend on experienced legal counsel. This is can be crucial in order to obtain the best possible outcome for the defendant.
The case of a former Virginia Commonwealth University student may serve to emphasize the point. He recently entered a guilty plea for charges of involuntary manslaughter, resulting from a DUI case that took place in February of this year. The 23-year-old man had been accused of having caused an accident that claimed the life of another 19-year-old student.
Police had originally charged the driver with aggravated manslaughter, driving under the influence and refusal to take a breath test. A later blood test indicated that his blood alcohol content was 0.18 percent.
As a result of negotiations with prosecutors, the charge of refusing to take a breath test was dropped and the 23-year-old driver pleaded guilty to reduced charges of involuntary manslaughter and DUI.
He is due to be sentenced in September.
It's not clear what the sentence is likely to be. What is certain is that the maximum possible term is 11 years in prison. But that is a far cry from the 20 years that could be imposed for a conviction of the more serious charges.
What this case perhaps reflects most is how so many lives are sadly derailed by what may be a single instance of a lapse in judgment.
Source: Richmond Times-Dispatch, "Man pleads guilty in wreck that killed VCU student," Reed Williams, July 13, 2012