11/29/05 — Wrist-slapping: Law should put the victims first

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Wrist-slapping: Law should put the victims first

There’s an old adage about a culprit being out of jail before his victims are out of the hospital.

That must have occurred to many citizens upon reading the article about the maximum punishment the driver might face should he be convicted of running over two young students in front of Greenwood Middle School recently.

Carson Thomas and MacKenzie Wessels, both 13, were badly hurt when, according to initial reports, a man ran through a red light and smashed into the youngsters as they crossed on the designated walkway.

Both boys were seriously injured and were transferred to Pitt Memorial Hospital in Greenville. One of them remains hospitalized in critical condition. His family and friends, as well as his classmates, hope they will hear good news about improvement in his condition soon.

Fortunately, thanks to quick response by emergency medical teams and excellent care at Pitt and Wayne Memorial, the other young man is recuperating at home and appears to be on the road to recovery.

The accused driver was charged with no operator’s license, expired registration and expired inspection sticker. The license of Luis Jesus had been revoked.

According to District Attorney Branny Vickory, should the accused be convicted of all the charges, he could be jailed for less than a year under existing sentencing laws.

The victims might sue for damages, of course. But even should they win, another old adage prevails: You can’t get blood out of a turnip.

In a few months after being provided “three hots and a cot” by the taxpayers, the culprit walks. And the victims are the victims ad infinitum.

Something is wrong here. The allowable punishment simply doesn’t fit the crime.

Our lawmakers need to take another hard look at it — with the victims given paramount concern.

A suggestion for their consideration: Impose a mandatory minimum five-year prison term on anyone operating a motor vehicle and causing an accident involving personal injuries while his or her license is revoked. In the event of a second such offense, make that a 10-year sentence (no parole) and ban the person from driving ever again.

And hold anyone who knowingly has any part in providing the illegal driver the opportunity to be behind the wheel criminally as well as financially responsible for injuries and damages suffered by the victims.

Published in Editorials on November 29, 2005 10:33 AM