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Louisiana man's sentence reduced from 70 years to 35

Sometimes a change in law or circumstances will prompt a judge to take a second look at a prisoner's sentence. Resentencing brings up important issues of criminal defense. Recently, a Louisiana judge has reduced the sentence of a man convicted for his role in a fatal car accident last year, saying that a recent Louisiana Supreme Court decision would have unfairly kept the man in prison for the rest of his life.

The man pleaded guilty to charges of vehicular homicide for his role in a 2012 crash that killed seven people. A judge originally sentenced him to 70 years in prison. He later explained that he expected the man to spend much less than that time in prison however, as he thought the man would likely be released early for good behavior.

However, the Louisiana Supreme Court later ruled that vehicular homicide is one of the types of violent crimes for which state law requires that those convicted spend at least 85 percent of their sentence behind bars. The judge who sentenced the man to 70 years felt that this would mean the man's sentence would be much longer than what he originally intended. He said that he never intended for the 30-year-old man to spend the rest of his life behind bars. For that reason, he resentenced the man to 35 years in prison.

With vehicular homicide now classified as a violent crime under the sentencing law, the man will have to serve at least 85 percent of that 35 years, or 29 years and eight months. Had the judge not resentenced the man, he would have to spend at least 59 and-a-half years in prison.

Although some crimes have mandatory minimum sentences, in most situations the judge has a wide discretion in the sentencing process. They may consider the defendant's previous criminal behavior or lack thereof, the events surrounding the crime and whether the defendant shows remorse for the crime. Sentencing includes not only jail time, but also fines, restitution and community service.

Those accused of crimes in Louisiana are entitled to a trial and a defense, but the laws and procedures associated with criminal charges change quite often. Louisiana residents who have been accused of crimes should get help understanding the charges against them and learn how to fight them with an effective defense strategy.

Source: The Advocate, "Greensburg man who killed 7 in 2012 car crash resentenced," James Minton, May 15, 2013

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