There are no winners in a DUI-related death. A recent Georgia case illustrates that point all too well. Earlier this month, a teenager escaped with a five-year sentence after reportedly causing an accident that killed a 20-year-old woman on the Interstate 475. Bibb County Superior Court Judge Bryant Culpepper gave 19-year-old Nathan Russell Hatton the lesser sentence instead of the maximum sentence of 15 years, according to an article published in the Macon Telegraph.
During sentencing the judge made an interesting and very valid point. He told a room filled with grieving family members that he would give Hatton a life sentence if that would bring the deceased Lauren Wilder back to life. The accident occurred Nov. 4, 2006 when Wilder was on her way to work on the I-475. Hatton rear-ended her on the freeway and Wilder was ejected from the vehicle. Officials said it was likely that Wilder was not wearing her seat belt.
Several members of Wilder’s family talked about their loss – a wedding they’ll never see, grandchildren they’ll never have, memories yet to be made. On the other hand, Hatton who reportedly had a .04 blood alcohol level during the accident, told the court that he is a changed man after the accident, that he thinks about Wilder all the time and is truly remorseful for the pain and suffering he has caused her family and friends.
Although the legal blood alcohol level limit in Georgia for people over the age of 21 is .08, Hatton was charged with vehicular homicide because he is underage. Hatton also told investigators that he was driving at 90 mph right before the accident happened. Judge Culpepper, after hearing both sides, said these cases are the most difficult for him to deal with because the death is unintentional. But he pointed out that Hatton did make a choice to drink and drive.
As DUI defense attorneys, we understand the judge’s point very well. Although Hatton admitted to speeding and drinking, it’s possible that the young woman would’ve lived had she worn her seat belt. It’s a tragedy at many levels for all concerned.
If you have been charged with drunk driving and you believe you were not impaired, we will help you fight your DUI. Attorneys not only have the legal expertise, but also the experience to empathize with what you are going through.