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Judge's decision reveals conflict between two legal principles

There has been a backlash in response to the recent decision by a Charleston judge to reduce the sentence of a 21-year-old man. The man was convicted on drunk driving charges that resulted in the death of a 72-year-old woman.

The judge cut the original 10 year sentence in half, a decision the family of the deceased woman learned about two months after the judge issued his ruling. The judge made the decision to reduce the drunk driving sentence without convening a court hearing, a process that is allowed under the rules of criminal procedure. However, some groups maintain that making a decision in the case without giving the deceased woman's family an opportunity to be present is a violation of another South Carolina statute that was designed to protect the interests of those impacted by crime.

The attorney for the defendant maintains that the judge acted within his legal authority and did not violate the state statutes designed to protect those affected by crime because these rules are designed to give individuals and their families the right to attend any hearings that the defendant in their case attends, and there was no hearing required in this case. A court hearing has been scheduled where a motion to have the case re-examined will be presented. Many members of the legal community are interested to see how the legal conflicts in the case will be resolved.

Individuals who have been charged with driving under the influence are often confused about their rights under the law and unsure of what their future holds. Attorneys who work with clients facing DUI charges may help to educate their clients about the legal process and develop strategies for their defense.

Source: The Post and Courier, "Victims’ Rights an issue in controversial sentence for fatal DUI wreck in Charleston", David Slade, July 31, 2013

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