Welcome to the newest feature on our Ziff Law blogs, Q & A.
While we will answer questions about personal injury, medical malpractice and divorce law, our primary practice areas, we will also be glad to talk about car/motorcycle/truck insurance, medical bills, lost wages, property damage and any legal issue in the news.
If we aren’t able to answer your question, we will refer you to a lawyer with expertise in that particular area.
Submit your questions by email to email@example.com.
Our first question is adapted from my Feb. 12 appearance on “Law Talk,” a segment during the WETM News at Noon. In “Law Talk,” the Ziff Law lawyers talk about legal issues that come up with events in the news at about 12:20 p.m. Wednesdays.
Q: A Steuben County woman was recently sentenced to three years’ probation and 200 hours of community service in connection with a teenage drinking party that ended in the death of a 16-year-old boy, who was struck and killed by a tractor trailer. The mother was charged with first-degree Unlawfully Dealing With A Child and two counts of Endangering The Welfare Of A Child because police said she attended the party with her teenage daughter and provided alcohol to the children. The boy’s family said the sentence was too light. In general, how do courts decide sentencing in a case like this?
A: Unlawfully Dealing With A Child means you are providing alcohol to someone under 21 years old. It is a Class A misdemeanor that carries with it a sentence of up to one year in jail or a $1,000 fine. The mother in this case received just probation and community service.
Given the fact that the sentence could have been up to a year in jail, many people may wonder, what happened?
Well, in sentencing, the judge gets a report from the county probation department called a Pre-Sentence Investigation (often called a PSI). The PSI reveals a lot of information about the defendant, including whether they have a past criminal record, and it goes into some of the circumstances in that person’s life. The PSI also describes the victim of the crime and any damages suffered by the victim.
The judge reviews the report and he has a wide range of discretion to impose a sentence. It this case it could have been anything from probation to up to a year in jail. We call that “judicial discretion.”
There is also “prosecutorial discretion”, where prosecutors have a wide range of options on the charges. In this case, the prosecutor could have considered going for a felony, Criminally Negligent Homicide; that’s where the defendant is criminally negligent causing the death of another person. There is also a second-degree Manslaughter charge, where the defendant recklessly causes the death of another person. That is a higher-level felony.
There are a wide range of things that can happen in these types of cases.
People have to understand that when there are intoxicated minors, the consequences can be very, very serious.
People can go to jail for a long time, so my best advice is: never provide alcohol to minors!
Please appreciate that while we are happy to try to provide you some basic legal information, doing so does NOT create an attorney/client relationship (unless you formally retain us to represent you). The information provided is general information and should NOT be considered legal advice. Also appreciate that in order to give definitive legal answers, it is critically important that a lawyer meet with you to get all the necessary details to provide a definitive answer so we encourage you to review the information we are providing with your own lawyer.
Thanks for reading!