11/22/05 — SUV driver could face limited penalties

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SUV driver could face limited penalties

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on November 22, 2005 1:50 PM

Without any additional charges, the driver accused in connection with the accident that sent two Greenwood Middle School students to the hospital Friday could face light penalties, the county's district attorney said.

Luis Delgado Jesus had his first day in court Monday for violations he incurred after allegedly running a red light and striking Carson Thomas, 13, and Mackenzie Wessels, 13, while the boys were crossing the street Friday near Greenwood Middle School.

Jesus, 23, faces numerous charges including reckless driving, driving with a revoked license and expired registration. A fourth charge, failure to stop at a red light, was dismissed Friday.

If no other charges are filed in this case, Jesus would not face stiff penalties if convicted, District Attorney Branny Vickory said.

With only one previous conviction on file, a 2003 guilty plea for driving without an operator's license, Vickory said Jesus might not even face jail time.

Under North Carolina law, the maximum penalty for reckless driving is 45 days in jail, he said. Driving with a revoked license carries a maximum sentence of 120 days. The other charges are also misdemeanors and would only result in fines.

Jesus, having only one previous offense on record, is subject to even less jail time if convicted, Vickory said. With less than five convictions, the maximum sentence Jesus faces is 45 days in jail for driving with a revoked license and 30 days for reckless driving.

Additionally, the state requires a mandatory suspension of sentence, meaning a probationary period, and not jail time, would result.

The owner of the car might also face charges for aiding and abetting reckless driving, which carries a maximum of 120 days in jail, with a suspended sentence.

Should the police report reveal malice in the case, Jesus might face other charges, including felony assault. Vickory said he would review the report and decide whether to pursue additional charges.

Vickory added that his office deals with cases involving unlicensed drivers daily.

"It happens a lot," he said. "Every once in a while, the police department sets up checkpoints. It's unbelievable how many cars come through where the drivers have no license, insurance or registration."

Vickory said, currently, the penalties are prescribed by law.

"Right now, the law is being enforced," he said. "It's up to the society to decide whether or not the penalties should be stiffer."

Jesus remains in Wayne County Jail. His bond has been increased to $5,500, officials said.