Justice For All - March 2012
This fifteenth edition of Justice For All is an examination of how three people, who were all convicted of the same crime, received dramatically different sentences.
Defendants A, B, and C were all convicted of operating while intoxicated, second offense. Defendant A was sentenced to 7 days in jail, Defendant B was sentenced to 30 days in jail and two years of probation supervised by the Department of Correctional Services, and Defendant C was sentenced to prison for a term of two years. Understanding whether these final results were appropriate requires an investigation into the totality of the circumstances in each case.
Defendant A was stopped for a traffic violation and showed signs of intoxication when speaking with the officer. A Datamaster breath test showed a blood alcohol content over the legal limit. Defendant A was polite and cooperative throughout and promptly completed the State mandated substance abuse evaluation, which recommended no further treatment. The prior conviction for OWI happened nearly ten years ago and there had been no subsequent violations of any kind until the present case. Defendant A is also an active member of the community and volunteers several hours per year for community organizations. Although none of these factors individually determined the outcome, the combination of all made it appropriate for the people to agree to seven days in jail, the mandatory minimum sentence for the crime.
Defendant B was stopped for weaving across the center line multiple times. Although initially cooperative, Defendant B became increasingly combative and verbally abusive after her field sobriety tests were failed and a preliminary breath test indicated a blood alcohol content 2.5 times the legal limit. Defendant B continually disobeyed lawful orders from the deputy and became increasingly upset, uncooperative, and verbally abusive. Defendant B was taken to the ground after resisting arrest and while in the squad car continued screaming vulgar insults toward the deputy. All the preceding events were caught on the squad car camera. Defendant B pled guilty and requested the minimum of seven days in jail, the same sentence Defendant A received. The sentencing proposal I offered on behalf of the State of Iowa and Clayton County requested more than quadruple the jail time Defendant B asked for and probation supervised by the Department of Correctional Services, with the possibility of prison for a probation violation. This proposal was rooted primarily in Defendant B’s behavior at the scene and the blood alcohol content of over twice the legal limit. Confronted with these facts, the judge chose to adopt the State’s sentencing proposal in its entirety. Defendant B was given one month in jail to think about her actions along with formal probation to the Department of Correctional Services.
Defendant C was stopped for reckless driving and speeding. The law enforcement officer observed signs of intoxication, performed standardized tests, collected a breath sample over the legal limit, and arrested the defendant. Defendant C had recently been convicted for OWI and was also on probation for a drug related felony, making it abundantly clear to the community that this was a person not interested in becoming a law abiding citizen at this point in time. Probation was revoked and Defendant C was sent to prison on the underlying drug felony and given the maximum two year prison sentence on the OWI second offense charge.
The sentencing discussion always begins with the underlying crime and doesn’t end until all the relevant factors have been considered. Iowa law states the two main goals of every sentence are the rehabilitation of the defendant and the protection of the community from further offenses. Justice for all means crafting a sentence that best accomplishes both of those goals.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 July 2012 16:30