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Kansas sentence disappoints family of DUI crash victim

The resolution of criminal cases can be disappointing to Kansas families who've lost close relatives to the actions of thoughtless drivers. Even the harshest punishment cannot undo the damages of a fatal accident. Wrongful death claims in Pittsburg civil courts cannot reverse time, but families can gain financial comfort through damage awards.

The family of a Harvey County accident victim was unhappy during the sentencing of the man convicted of causing the crash. The verdict had been a long time in coming. The summer 2012 accident was caused by a drunk driver, whose criminal charges were reduced by a plea agreement.

The defendant, a 40-year-old military veteran, admitted he was intoxicated when he blew through a stop sign and crashed into the 28-year-old victim's vehicle. Vehicular homicide and involuntary manslaughter charges were replaced with two aggravated battery counts. The defendant will serve just 60 days jail time or much longer, if he violates the multiple conditions of a three-year parole.

A judge ordered the defendant to take part in a program offered by the Offender Victims Ministries, a Christian-based organization that attempts to reconcile victims and defendants by having them meet. The victim's family has no obligation to enter the program. The court said the defendant also was required to maintain ongoing treatment in a substance abuse program.

A violation of parole could send the convicted man to prison for two consecutive terms of 32 months, more than five years. The time equals the terms the military veteran would have spent behind bars for the battery charges. The victim's family was disheartened by the judge's ruling, which lacked the lengthy prison time they'd hope the defendant would receive.

Criminal courts issue society's punishment to wrongdoers. Civil claims bring plaintiffs and defendants face to face. For some families, relief is less about damages than hearing a court declare a defendant was responsible for their loss.

Source: The Kansan, "DUI case resulting in death reaches crossroads" Chad Frey, Mar. 28, 2014

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