Years ago I was watching the news and they had a clip about two 18 years old girls who had been drinking and driving. They had swerved off the road and hit a tree. The girl who was riding passenger was killed. The girl who had been driving survived.

The parents of the girl who passed away were devastated. Clearly angry at the girl who had been driving. Knowing their little girl was now gone from this world.

When the judge (or jury) finally announced the verdict, they sentenced the girl to life in prison. Upon hearing this the girl screamed out and began flailing her arms about crying out loud “no, no!!” as the police officers grabbed her. At that moment she realized that she was about to spend the rest of her life (or at least the rest of her prime life) behind bars. She was only 18. She had just barely become an adult and suddenly her life was being taken away from her.

I remember the video clip and something about the way she reacted to the sentence that was being give to her. It struck me hard. It was powerful and frightening. It was the first time I had ever seen a female given a life sentence and especially one that was so young and so average everyday middle class. It hit me and it scared the shit out of me. I had seen plenty of clips about some young guys that were sentenced for something awful. I think I had become desensitized to that over the years. But seeing this young average girl sentenced like this was new and really drove the point home.

I’m sure that girl probably wished she would have also been killed in that accident.

Now I’m not trying to take away from the loss of the other family when I tell this story. It’s a horrible thing. It really is. But it’s a scary thought to think that in an instance one wrong move and your entire life can change.

I also sort of wonder if the punishment was too harsh. I debate in my head sometimes what the roll of our prison system should be, especially going forward into the future. Do we continue onward toward a future where we embrace punishment and revenge through imprisonment? In my head there is a difference between an 18 year old girl who gets drunk one night and crashes a car into a tree killing a passenger and someone who goes out and murders someone on purpose. The goal of putting the murderer behind bars is to prevent them from murdering again. But how much would you bet that girl would never drink and drive again? Obviously it’s devastating enough to lose her friend and know she is responsible. Obviously the parents are wrought with anger and sadness over the loss of their daughter. So is putting her behind bars for the rest of her life the right choice? Or is it more about the parents (and/or state) getting some twisted form of revenge? Eye for an eye kind of thing.

I also question how much responsibility should be placed on the person who gets into a car with a drunk driver.

I don’t know. Just some thoughts.

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0 thoughts on “Devastating

  1. Here is the point.  You remembered it after all this time.  It served as a warning to you.  Part of the idea is that a society shows they will treat such an action with a consequence that will make others not want to do it either.  If you let a person off too lightly, it sends a very different message. 

    Having said that, I feel bad for the girl too.

  2. That’s what’s called denial, the family of the dead person won’t accept that he/she was also responsible for getting into a vehicle with a drunk person that can’t obviously have any control.

  3. When I was in high school there was a drunk driver accident with a bunch of kids I knew. They went out partying in the mountains and had been driving around in a pick up truck. There 3 or 4 people in the front cabin and about 5 in the bed of the trunk. Everyone had been drinking, but if I recall correctly, there had only been one person seriously drunk. She was of age to drink and she was a passenger in the front seat. From what I was told she had reached across to the steering wheel and jerked it. This caused the driver to hit an embankment and flip a couple of times throwing everyone out of the bed of the truck and even some in the cabin. Only one person died and it was the girl who had jerked the steering wheel. The rest were badly injured and some sent to ICU, but all the rest survived.

    I knew these kids since grade school but didn’t talk to them anymore. I wondered if this event made them stop drinking or make smarter choices. Sometimes it’s not a good idea to drink and be in a vehicle at all.

  4. @TheTheologiansCafe – Yeah, I had thought about this “make an example of them” mentality. In certain instances I’m sure it works. So you aren’t wrong. But I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone says “I’m not going to drink and drive for fear of going to prison.” If anything peoples say “I don’t want to get killed or kill someone else.” Yet none of this stops people from doing it. Plenty of people drive while “buzzed.” Some get caught and slapped with a DUI. I think if anything the thought of getting killed and thought of killing someone else is probably the best motive not to do it. What stops me is the thought of getting killed myself and leaving my son
    without a father. The universe has consequences built in, outside of the consequences humans societies create.

    @Tiger11007 – Yeah, sometimes I wonder if there should be a waiting period for trials like these. Families of dead people have a hard time seeing clearly so soon after such an event.

    @GiantUnicorn – Was anyone charged with anything?

  5. She shouldn’t have been tried for murder, if anything thats vehicular manslaughter… sounds like they tried her for the wrong crime, if you ask me.

  6. I mean, isn’t there something like if you have good behavior in prison, you can get out early?

    It’s a little too intense to put her in jail for life for something like drinking and driving.  I mean, it’s not premeditated, it wasn’t malicious…

  7. @Tiger11007 – I am with you on that. It could have easily been the other way around if the passenger had her car there instead. I think when people are grieving, they just need someone to blame.

    I do think the girl should have been punished, but I agree with you 100%, Roxics. She probably won’t drink and drive again.

  8. A similar situation happened to a couple of girls I went to school with, only the one driving was killed and the other girl lived.

    Seems to me that a small amount of jail time and some sort of community service speaking on the dangers of drinking and driving would have been better.

  9. I can understand the “making an example” ideology behind the legal system keeping society in check, but I do not think the law will ever successfully regulate the human nature of teenagers which involves making mistakes as part of growing up. The punishment does not seem to fit the crime. I agree with your feelings.  

  10. My brother-in-law’s brother committed a similar crime when he was 19. He had three friends with him in the car and was driving 80 mph down a residential street and crashed, killing one guy and leaving the other two girls badly hurt. The worst part is that he was unharmed and ran off, leaving everyone for dead (he claims to have suffered amnesia after the crash). For that he only received 12 years in prison, but was just released early on some technicalities after serving only three years. The families of the victims are fighting that.

    So why “justice” would choose to essentially turn a blind eye to one and come down like a shit load of bricks on another is beyond me. I wonder if that girl ended up committing suicide rather than face life in prison. It would have been more fair to make her an endentured slave to the other girl’s family for life.

  11. I totally agree that the legal system is messed up and needs to be fixed. Having said that here is my story: My dad was killed by a drunk driver. His two friends and the drunk driver survived with minimal to moderate injuries. The DD made a deal and plead out to vehicular manslaughter – this pisses me off since he already had FIVE dui’s and didnt even have a license at the time of the accident. He only served 1 year in jail and was then moved to a work-release jail program where he stayed for 5 years. Within a year after being released he was arrested again and charged with 3 counts of Criminal Sexual Conduct 2nd
    Degree (Person Under 13- 2 female family members). Guess he learned some new “tricks” and tastes while in jail. He was then put back in jail. Guess what? He was released on “good behavior” early and is now free.

    Now if they would have thrown the book at him for my dad’s death then those 2 little girls would have NEVER had to live through the things that were done to them!! Hell had something been done during his FIVE DUI’s and the removal of his license then maybe my dad wouldn’t have had to die. That man’s “bad decision” did more then kill my dad – it started a chain of events that ruined the lives of MANY people.

    Some of you feel that the deceased girls family was stuck in “denial” and just “needed someone to blame” – YES one of the stages of grief is denial, but that stage is always short for EVERYONE that goes through something like this. It’s short because very quickly you get slapped in the fact with the reality of it all. And drunk drivers that KILL someone ARE AT FAULT!

    I hope none of you ever have to live through anything like this – but if you do…..your frame of mind will change about this subject……….

  12. @crazymomma2 – I mean, I know.  I wasn’t being clear with my comment.  I was trying to say that it was more of an accident than malicious, premeditated murder.  Drunk driving is despicable behavior, but I dunno, I don’t really know the point of spending the rest of your life in jail.  It doesn’t seem to accomplish anything. 

  13. I’m completely against drink driving – but I do think the punishment was uncalled for. I don’t even think the girl should’ve been imprisoned at all – she will be going through enough grief of her own – it was accidental especially at the age of 18. 18 year olds don’t have the most developed frontal lobes and so haven’t got the best ability to make good choices.

    Even serious murderers don’t get life in prison – so how is it fair or even right to imprison this girl?

    I believe that for DIU drivers – that they should only be imprisoned for repeat driving under the influence offenses – and the only time a DIU driver should be imprisoned long term for manslaughter should be when he/she has an extensive history of DIU and court mandated AA/responsible alchohol consumption meetings (if there is such a thing) attendance & continued DIU – in such a case it would be obvious that the person has been made well aware of his/her actions has continued doing so despite past rehabilitative efforts.

    Just my opinion.

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