The 25-year-old Montana driver who severely injured two passengers when he struck a tree in December 2011 has been given a 10-year suspended sentence in connection with the crash. Officials say the man entered an Alford plea, which allows a defendant to acknowledge that the prosecution has enough evidence to convict.
The Alford plea is not a traditional guilty plea. The man entered the plea because he has experienced memory loss surrounding the time of the car accident. In addition to the 10-year suspended sentence, he will also be required to pay a $1,000 fine.
Authorities report that the man's blood tested positive for marijuana metabolites and a small amount of alcohol after the collision.
The accident occurred when the man lost control of his vehicle while driving on River Junction Road in Columbia Falls. He slammed into a tree, sending his front-seat passenger through the windshield and onto the hood. That victim suffered multiple skull fractures. The rear-seat passenger was also severely injured, sustaining chest injuries in the crash. Authorities said the driver was trapped in the vehicle after the crash and had to be extricated using special equipment. The man subsequently spent several days in the intensive care unit of a hospital in Seattle.
Several charges were dismissed in exchange for the admission of guilt.
The victims in the case may not feel as though justice was served. After all, a suspended sentence allows the convicted person to go free, providing that he or she stays out of trouble with the law. As a result, the victims should consider filing civil suits against the driver to provide an additional measure of justice.
Victims in this case could sue to recover damages for their medical bills in connection with the accident. Skull fractures and chest injuries are certainly not inexpensive conditions to treat, and the victims' medical bills might be astronomical. In addition, the passengers could recover financial compensation for pain and suffering, lost income and emotional distress, among other claims.
Source: Daily Inter Lake, "Vehicle crash yields suspended sentence," Jesse Davis, March 20, 2013