A recent news article reports a 21 year old Navy sailor in California will be sentenced to 11 years in state prison for the deaths of an elderly couple. Earl Decarlos Smith Jr. plead guilty to gross vehicular manslaughter. He incurred the charge when he was driving early one morning in July when he veered too far to the side of the road and hit two retired school teachers as they were taking their morning walk.
The story goes on to say that Smith was distracted by the GPS on his cell phone and was going 20 miles over the speed limit when the accident occurred. Perhaps the worst evidence against him was his elevated BAC level. In California, you are considered impaired for driving with a BAC of .08% or more. Smith's BAC was just .04% over the legal limit.
When you consider that he gave an otherwise valid reason for his distraction and the fact that his BAC was only slightly above the legal limit, 11 years in jail may seem unfair to some. Especially considering similar cases where drivers serve no jail time.
For example, an Arkansas man crashed into the back of 3 motorcyclists who were sitting in stopped traffic. He was going 70 miles per hour and did not hit his brakes before the collision. Two of the cyclists died and one was severely injured. This driver was sentenced to 12 months of probation. The driver claimed that he was not texting or reading his cell phone, but it seems very likely that his attention was elsewhere or else he would have hit the brakes.
The only difference between these two cases is that the latter did not include alcohol intoxication. Both drivers were distracted by cell phones or some other object, but because Mr. Smith had alcohol in his system, he will face over a decade in jail.