For Remorseless Drunk Driver, Stiff Sentence Was Neither Disproportionate Nor Inappropriate

In a recent criminal law matter, the Sentence Review Division of the Superior Court assessed whether a defendant’s sentence following a DUI-related trial was proper.

This case arose from an incident that occurred on July 27, 1997. The defendant was driving under the influence when he struck two teenage pedestrians. One died at the scene and the other the next day at Hartford Hospital. The defendant did not stop to help them; rather, he drove until he got his car hit a tree, after which he fled. Soon after, police found the defendant, who admitted that he hit what he believed was a dog. A subsequent chemical alcohol test revealed the defendant’s blood alcohol content at 0.163, over twice the legal limit, as well as the presence of cannabis.

The defendant was charged with and convicted of two counts of second-degree manslaughter with a motor vehicle, offense committed while on release, and operating a motor vehicle while under the influence (OMVUI) of alcohol and/or drugs. At the sentencing hearing, the court noted that “the impact of the defendant’s actions was clearly significant,” noting the very young age of the victims. The defendant did not exhibit remorse for his conduct, and he tried blaming the victims because at the time of the accident, they were wearing dark clothing. The court considered the defendant’s background and upbringing, but was particularly disturbed by the following statement from his pre-sentence investigation report: “I’ve been driving like this for 35 years… I can drink and drive… I am a good drunk driver.”

The defendant was subsequently sentenced to thirty-five years execution suspended after twenty-six and a half years, with five years probation. He sought review of his sentence, arguing that it was “disproportionate” to the sentences imposed on others who were similarly situated.

The scope of review by the Sentencing Review Division is confined to the parameters of Connecticut Practice Book § 43-23 et seq. A sentence may be modified upon a showing that it was “inappropriate or disproportionate” in light of various factors, such as the nature of the offense and protection of public interests. In this case, the Court stated that modification was not warranted based on the unique facts of this case. It wrote how it appeared “the sentencing court was unable to identify anything that it could use as mitigation to merit a lesser sentence.” Therefore, the sentence was affirmed.

When faced with a charge of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated (a.k.a. driving under the influence) or license suspension, an individual is best served by consulting with an experienced criminal law practitioner. Should you have any questions regarding criminal defense, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County at 203-221-3100 or at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.