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Did judge incorrectly reduce sentence for drunk driving charges?

As this blog has discussed in the past, there are certain procedures that must be followed when someone is arrested on suspicion of DUI. When authorities do not follow these procedures , a defense attorney can sometimes obtain a reduction in the drunk driving charges.

Some residents of South Carolina may be wondering if this works in the opposite direction as well. For example, if procedure is not properly followed when sentencing an individual who has been charged with a crime, can it result in an increase in the severity of the penalty? A case in South Carolina is about to answer a very similar question.

In 2011, a man allegedly sped up an interstate ramp in the wrong direction and struck another car head-on killing the 72-year-old driver. The man was initially sentenced to serve 10 years for his conviction but a judge later decided to cut that in half and reduce his sentence to five years. The judge's decision to reduce the sentence has raised questions because he did not schedule a hearing. Therefore, the victim's family did not learn of the decision for two months.

Some are arguing that the sentencing should be reopened. However, the man's attorney argues that the state has no legal basis to reopen the sentencing. Although some argue that the victims' rights were violated, the man's attorney says that this is not the case and that it was appropriate for the judge to decide whether he wanted to hold a hearing on the issue.

In consideration of this issue, a court hearing was held so that the judge could reexamine his decision to reduce the man's sentence. The results are unknown at this point and the judge has refused to comment until the resolution is finalized.

This case is just another example of why it is important for the accused to have a defense attorney serving as their advocate at every point throughout the case. The state zealously prosecutes people who are accused of drunk driving charges. Aggressive prosecution must be balanced by a strong defense that preserves the rights of the accused.

Source: The Post and Courier, "Victims' Rights an issue in controversial sentence for fatal DUI wreck in Charleston," David Slade, August 1, 2013

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