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Erie man will serve 3-10 years for DUI homicide

A plea deal by prosecutors, approved by an Erie County court, dismissed 11 charges against a defendant. Prosecuting attorneys wanted to make sure the admitted negligent driver was charged with the most severe crime and paid the highest penalty possible for causing a fatal car accident.

The defendant pleaded guilty to second-degree felony DUI vehicular homicide and two accident-related charges. Evidence against the driver included a 0.242 reading on a blood alcohol content test taken after the January crash in Erie. The test results more than tripled the state's legal BAC limit of 0.08.

Investigators said the defendant's Dodge Neon was speeding along East 14th Street in the middle of the night when it struck a second vehicle at French Street. The Neon driver ignored a stop sign and hit a Hyundai Accent, killing a 24-year-old passenger and injuring the driver.

Prosecutors were willing to drop almost a dozen charges to secure a guilty plea for vehicular homicide and a minimum prison term of three years. Some of the dismissed charges included misdemeanor involuntary manslaughter and a mandatory one-year minimum sentence for an accident involving injury.

The defendant will be sentenced at the end of next month for the three remaining charges. He faces a possible prison term of up to 10 years on the homicide charge. The accused was released until sentencing after meeting requirements for a $50,000 bond.

The defense attorney said his client prepared to plead guilty several months ago after waiving the opportunity for a preliminary hearing. The accused man told his lawyer that he was extremely sorry for what he had done.

Drunk drivers often don't realize how many lives are changed permanently as the result of their thoughtless actions. Criminal courts convict and punish lawbreakers. Civil courts help injured survivors and families of lost loved ones receive financial compensation for damages and pain and suffering resulting from acts of negligence.

Source: goerie.com, "Erie man pleads guilty in Jan. fatal DUI," Ed Palattella, Sept. 5, 2012

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