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Pennsylvania driver sentenced after Alford plea for fatal crash

Criminal defendants are sometimes punished for crimes without having to state they committed them. The evidence of wrongdoing may be clear, but the accused is not forced to say "I admit my guilt." Pennsylvania courts accept these pleas provided sentences are fulfilled.

A Lancaster County man will spend four years in prison and an equal amount of time on probation for causing a fatal car accident near Pittsburgh last year. The 27-year-old man was charged with a head-on collision that killed one person and injured two others, including a 3-year-old boy.

The defendant entered an Alford plea for negligent manslaughter and causing an injury accident while driving drunk. No admission of guilt was required. An Alford plea allows a defendant to maintain innocence while acknowledging evidence exists to convict him.

Investigators said the defendant's Cadillac swerved across a center line into oncoming traffic. Police stated the car was hitting speeds of 80 mph when it smashed into a Toyota Corolla driven by a Hagerstown, Maryland mother.

A man in the Toyota's front passenger seat sustained catastrophic injuries and died after hospitalization. The 22-year-old woman driver and her son were airlifted to out-of-state medical facilities. Both victims suffered bone fractures. The boy also had lacerations of the head and liver.

Authorities later learned the defendant was heavily intoxicated at the time of the crash. A test showed the man's blood alcohol content was 0.17, more than double the state's acceptable BAC limit.

The defendant's Alford plea allowed him to avoid saying he was speeding or drunk in exchange for the punishments of imprisonment and probation. The surviving mother and child were present at sentencing to hear the defendant assert his innocence.

The victims may have been deprived of an expected guilty plea, but they have the opportunity to receive compensation. A personal injury claim could lead to the award of damages for the defendant's unproclaimed negligence.

Source: aarticles.herald-mail.com, "Pa. man sentenced to prison in crash that killed Williamsport man," Don Aines, April 10, 2013

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