January 16, 2013 /24-7PressRelease/
-- American parents hold their collective breaths through high school graduation seasons, hoping that all the kids make it through without any drunk driving mishaps. Unfortunately, for two Virginia Beach families in June 2011, the tragic phone calls came.
Carter Womick was 18, had just graduated from an area high school and was planning for community college, when he allegedly got behind the wheel in the early morning hours after having consumed alcohol. His passenger was Meaghan Gerety, almost 16 and having just finished her sophomore year.
Wornick apparently lost control of his vehicle and hit a tree hard enough to fracture Gerety's skull, leaving her with a severe brain injury. The driver was also seriously injured with a punctured lung and broken ribs.
Gerety almost died and endured a long, slow healing process that included counseling, rehabilitation and seizures.
In August 2012, Gerety pleaded guilty in Virginia commonwealth court to underage alcohol possession
and drunk driving
that caused permanent impairment to another person (maiming). According to The Virginian-Pilot, Judge A. Bonwill Shockley cited the fact that Gerety almost died and then issued a sentence of two years plus three months in jail, followed by a nine-year suspended sentence, "far higher than the guidelines, which called for no more than six months behind bars."
Virginia sentencing guidelines
Virginia law established the Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission
to draft and administer sentencing guidelines for circuit court judges to consider when imposing felony sentences on convicted defendants.
The guidelines are discretionary, not mandatory, so in the Wornick case, for example, the judge was able to depart upward and impose a harsher sentence.
The commission created a scoring system that takes many relevant factors into account that reflect the seriousness of the particular criminal offense and the defendant's particular characteristics. The defendant's score determines his or her officially recommended sentence range based on the guidelines.
The guidelines generally consider factors like injury severity and past convictions. In a drunk driving sentence, the guidelines also look at other things such as whether the defendant was driving without a valid license, whether he or she stopped when ordered by the police to do so, the severity of the vehicular and other property damage, whether it was a hit-and-run, whether the incident resulted in more than just the primary offense and whether the defendant is a habitual drunk driver.
The sentencing judge may follow the recommendation and impose a sentence within the guideline range, but he or she is free to depart from the guidelines. However, to do so, the judge must set out for the record in writing the reasons for the departure.
Legal counsel important
Virginia sentencing laws are complex and the potential for long incarceration and other serious penalties for a drunk driving conviction real. Anyone under the threat of a DUI charge in the commonwealth should consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney to help navigate the criminal justice system and build a viable defense.
Article provided by John J. Rice, Attorney & Counselor at Law
Visit us at www.johnjrice.com---
Press release service and press release distribution provided by http://www.24-7pressrelease.com
# # #Read more Press Releases from FL Web Advantage: