A protest for what a Bruinswick Georgia hit and run victim’s friends and family believe was a unfairly light sentence was held yesterday. The rally is to protest the plea deal made by the prosecutors who dismissed the vehicular homicide charge, and sentenced the man to a 6 year prison term, the maximum sentence for a hit and run involving the death of the victim.
The officers originally arrested the man for homicide by vehicle, hit and run, DUI, as well as driving on a suspended license. The hit and run charge seems like the only one that they could definitively prove, since it was not disputed that the man did not stop after hitting the victim on his bicycle, so they got the maximum penalty allowed for that charge.
Proving vehicular homicide charges would have been difficult, since the investigation showed it could have very easily been an accident. The victim was riding his bicycle in a traffic lane at night, with a dark clothes and no reflectors or lights on the bike. He was also found to have marijuana in his system.
It also does not appear to be clear that alcohol was a factor in the accident. No blood test was taken due to a mistake by the police, and no other clear evidence was cited to establish that the defendant had be driving under the infuence.
Under the facts cited, it certainly sounds like the prosecution got the strongest punishment they thought they could get. While is is understandable that the victims family and friends are upset about the results, plea bargains are critical to the system, and allow for both sides to make deals that are in the best interests of justice and fairness for everyone.
If there were no plea agreements, the criminal court system would grind to a halt, as every case would have to go to a trial in search of the maximum penalties. Cases would take years to resolve, holding everone’s lives in place indefinitely. Plus in many cases, the prosecution would lose, and the defendant would go free on a charge where he might have plead guilty to a lesser penalty. The plea bargain system is ultimately beneficial to everyone.
But that is understandably little comfort to a grieving family.