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Wisconsin teen given a lenient sentence for car accident death

Earlier this month, a Wisconsin teen was sentenced in the car accident death of her friend and classmate last September. The 18-year-old girl from Mequon will face one year in jail with release during the day to attend college.

Although the case could have been tried as a felony homicide by drugged driving, the District Attorney said that in the interest of justice and facts, the charge was reduced to homicide by negligent operation of a motor vehicle.

In September of last year, three girls were driving in Milwaukee when the driver lost control of the car at the onramp of northbound U.S. 41. Neither the driver nor a front seat passenger was injured, but the resulting car accident killed the teen riding in the back seat. She was not wearing a seatbelt.

Witnesses reported that the defendant (who was driving the car) was disposing of liquor bottles at the accident scene. The girl submitted to a blood test which showed that she had not been drinking. However, police found traces of marijuana in her system.

This was a horrible accident, but may not have been caused by drug impairment. The defense attorney cited the girl's clean criminal record, as well as her good grades and work history. He added that she is a very low risk to the community if put on probation.

Family members added testimony that she has been distraught since the death of her good friend and classmate.

In light of these facts, The District Attorney recommended one year in jail with release privileges for the girl to attend Marquette University. The judge agreed to the sentence. Additionally, the girl was ordered to pay $37,000 in restitution to the family and perform 300 hours of community service. She must also remain sober.

A case like this is difficult because while it involves a death and illegal activity, it is clear that it was an accident. Teenagers often make mistakes and bad decisions, especially behind the wheel. While this accident was tragic, many believe that a felony conviction with a 25-year prison sentence simply could not be justified.

Source: Journal-Sentinel online, "Mequon teen sentenced to year in jail for friend's death," Bruce Vielmetti, 16 June 2011

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