Car accidentNews on car crashes is becoming all too common nowadays. We usually read about the location of the crash, the reasons behind the crash, and the hospital where the victims are taken. Sometimes the report will specify the status of the victim or reckless driver as fatal (resulted in death), critical (with life-threatening injuries), or minor. But also of interest is what happens to the reckless driver after the accident. What price will he pay for the erroneous decision he made while behind the wheel?

The following is a list of sentences, convictions, and/or charges given in driving related crimes.

1. Shawn Brady, of Utah, was sentenced to one year in jail following his conviction on a negligent homicide. He was found guilty of killing a passenger (his long-time girlfriend) in his car when he lost control while driving more than 100 mph.

2.  Ohio man gets 8 years after 12th DUI.

3.  Teen charged with felony DUI in brother’s death.

4.  Teen in Nevada court involving DUI crash that killed 5 people.

Eighteen-year-old Jean Ervin Soriano is charged with seven felony driving under the influence charges and two misdemeanors. Prosecutors say Soriano had a blood-alcohol percentage of 0.12 after the crash. It was reported that Soriano is a California juvenile detention escapee and the driver of the SUV that hit the van carrying 7 family members. 5 people were killed and the two family members were injured.

5.  Billings woman admits charges in DUI crash that injured 10 people.
April Rose LaForge, 23, appeared before Judge Ingrid Gustafson and pleaded guilty to five counts of felony negligent vehicular assault charges for a drunk driving crash July 24, 2011.

6.  Man sentenced in drunk driving death of 8-year-old girl

The report featured a Grand Rapids man who will spend up to 15 years in prison for the death of an 8-year-old Detroit girl. According to police, the man’s blood-alcohol level was .16.

Utah State Courts classified crimes into three categories. These are felonies, misdeamenors and infractions.

A. Felonies

A felony is a major crime which can be punished with imprisonment and/or a fine. There are four categories of felonies.

1.  Capital Offense: Aggravated murder

2. First Degree: Murder, rape, child kidnapping, aggravated burglary, aggravated robbery or arson, and possession with intent to distribute controlled substances near a school.

3.  Second Degree: Manslaughter, robbery, residential burglary, kidnapping, perjury, auto theft, forgery of checks $5,000 or more, theft of property $5,000 or more, forcible sexual abuse, and intentional child abuse.

4.  Third Degree:
Burglary of non-dwelling, theft more than $1,000 but less than $5,000, aggravated assault, forgery of checks more than $1,000 but under $5,000, third DUI in 10 years, joyriding (for more than 24 hours), possession with intent to distribute marijuana, and possession of other controlled substances, and false or forged prescriptions.

The Table below shows the offense and the corresponding penalty.

Degree                              Possible Prison Term                                  Possible Fine

Capital                                Life in prison, life in prison without parole, or death

First Degree                     Five years to life in prison                                                                          Up to $10,000

Second Degree                One to 15 years in prison                                                                           Up to $10,000

Third Degree                    Zero to five years in prison                                                                         Up to $5,000

B. Misdemeanors

A misdemeanor is an offense lower than a felony which can be punished with a county jail term of up to one year and/or a fine. Many city and county ordinances and some state laws are misdemeanors. There are three categories of misdemeanors.

1.  Class A: Negligent homicide, DUI with injury, theft, assault on a police officer, criminal mischief, and possession of marijuana (more than one ounce, less than 16 ounces).

2. Class B: Assault, resisting arrest, DUI, reckless driving, possession of marijuana under one ounce, possession of drug paraphernalia, shoplifting (under $300), trespass of a dwelling, public nuisance, concealed weapon, and many traffic offenses.

3. Class C: Public intoxication, no valid license, and driving on a suspended license.

Class                          Possible Jail Term                   Possible Fine

Class A                                   Up to one year in jail                                Up to $2,500

Class B                                  Up to six months in jail                            Up to $1,000

Class C                                   Up to 90 days in jail                                  Up to $750

C. Infractions

An infraction is a minor offense punishable by a fine only, up to $750. Examples include city traffic violations and some disorderly conduct offenses.

How a Sentence is Determined

The judge determines the sentence of a person convicted of a crime using the Utah Sentence and Release Guidelines. These are published as Appendix D of the Utah Court Rules Annotated and available on the Utah Sentencing Commission’s website.
The Guidelines also provide aggravating and mitigating factors which can be considered in sentencing.

Aggravating factors

Things that can make the punishment more severe include:

  • if the victim suffered substantial bodily injury
  • if the offense was extremely cruel or depraved
  • if the offender was in a position of authority over the victim
  • if the victim was unusually vulnerable

A penalty can also be enhanced if:

  • the person committed the crime with two or more other people
  • the person used a dangerous weapon on or near a school
  • the person committed the crime in the presence of a child
  • the person is determined to have committed a hate crime
  • the person is determined to be a habitual offender
  • the offense was committed while in prison

Crime indeed does not pay. If you have been involved or injured in a reckless driving accident, please contact Christensen & Hymas at
(801) 506-0800 for a free consultation.

Image copy right by Simon Law

Ken Christensen
Partner, Founder at Christensen & Hymas
Ken Christensen is the founding partner of Christensen & Hymas. He is an avid cyclist, loves baseball, and enjoys spending time with his family in the outdoors.

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