The Campaign For DA

1.31.2009

Sometimes The Issues Are Buried

Since I do this stuff for a living, certain headlines grab my attention. This one did today. The lady had been sentenced for Intoxication Manslaughter which is a Second Degree felony carrying with it a 2 to 20 year sentence. So my initial reaction was that she had received the maximum --- until the story told me that the prosecutor had asked for 50 years. That confused me. But buried in the story was the answer: "She’s led a productive life since her drug conviction almost 18 years ago," her lawyer said. So a silly drug conviction changed things dramatically. First, the conviction allowed the Intoxication Manslaughter to be enhanced to a First Degree Felony carrying with it a range of 5 years to Life in prison. (Explaining why the prosecutor asked for 50 years.) Secondly, the prior conviction caused her to have the judge assess punishment instead of a jury because a jury cannot give probation to a person with a prior felony conviction (although a judge can.) So if she wanted to beg for probation, she could only beg to a judge, not a jury. The problem is that there is no statute of limitations for the use of prior convictions. A penny-ante dope conviction at age 20 can come back to haunt you at age 50.