I have two stories about commercial vehicle accidents, both having similar outcomes. Specifically an incredibly long prison term. One case has seen a lot of outrage over the lengthy sentence.
In 2019, a semi-truck driver was traveling down a mountain highway when there was a mechanical failure on his vehicle. He bypassed runaway truck ramps and careened down the highway. He was out of control, picking up more and more speed.
Instead of using the means along the roadway to safely dump his speed and harm no one, he chose to continue down the highway. He stayed on the highway with his speed picking up until he approached slow-moving and stopped traffic. He then took an offramp to surface streets at a high rate of speed.
At the bottom of the offramp, he crashed into multiple vehicles. The crash killed four people and hurt many others. Multiple lives were devastated and all that could have been avoided had the driver simply used any of the runaway ramps.
The prosecutor offered the driver a plea deal. But the driver was unwilling to take a deal unless the only punishment was a traffic ticket. He went to trial and was found guilty on 27 criminal charges!
Those charges included: four counts of vehicular homicide, six counts of first-degree assault, 10 counts of attempt to commit assault in the first degree with extreme indifference, two counts of reckless vehicular assault, one count of reckless driving, and four counts of careless driving causing death.
With all those charges he was given a sentence of 1,320 months in prison.
The second case is of a truck driver who lost his brakes going down a pass in Colorado. Sadly, without the ability to stop, he ran into other vehicles causing a bad car accident. Tragically, the results of the crash included lost lives and damaged property.
The driver was completely sober and had no previous criminal offenses. He didn’t mean to cause the accident and loss of life. It was the loss of the brakes that caused the accident. In spite of all of these facts he was sentenced to 110 years in prison.
The second story has received a lot of attention because the focus is being placed on two facts: 1, it was an accident; and 2, the de facto life-sentence.
There you have it, two stories about commercial vehicle accidents where the driver is facing more than a century behind bars.
What do you think about the two stories? Does one or both drivers deserve their sentence based on the facts as presented?
Both stories are from the same incident. I split out the stories based on how it’s being played out in the court of public opinion and how it is being played out in the court of law.
The 110-year sentence was based on the 27 criminal offenses for which he was found guilty by a jury. Those offenses included multiple counts of vehicular homicide and numerous first degree assault charges. These are all major offenses.
The judge said jail time was necessary but admittedly felt 110 years was excessive. However, because of state laws involving minimum sentences, the judge’s hands were tied. The 110 years was the bare minimum sentence based on the 27 criminal charges.
The court of public opinion believes the sentence is too harsh. Even the prosecutor claimed he didn’t want that many years. However, he was the one who filed dozens and dozens of charges knowing the possible sentence if the trucker was found guilty.
Just as the runaway truck caused massive destruction, so did the laws and the prosecutor in this case. This case helps to shine light on mandatory minimum sentences and how tying the hands of a judge can remove common sense from the courtroom.
Ultimately, the governor of Colorado reduced the jail time because of the injustice of the Colorado laws which mandated a sentence of 110 years.
Anderson is a computer programmer who enjoys serving the community through various community-oriented service jobs.