23 year old April Carole Thompson was sentenced on Tuesday for gross vehicle manslaughter while intoxicated. Thompson was driving last December when she crashed her truck head on into another car after driving in the wrong direction down the freeway. The other driver with severely injured and died at the scene. Thompson's blood-alcohol level was estimated to be around 2.4 or 2.5 percent; nearly three times the legal limit. She was found guilty of gross vehicle manslaughter and sentenced to 6 years in jail. Because of her extremely high BAC and the fact that she was so intoxicated she didn't realize she was driving in the wrong direction, many people are saying that her sentence is not harsh enough.
This is not the first time that people have argued that manslaughter penalties in California are too light. Advocacy groups like MADD encourage states to impose steep penalties on people who cause injury by drunk driving.
Currently, a gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated charge in California can result in jail time of 4, 6 or 10 years. Vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated can results in 1, 2 or 4 years of jail time. While it is not the state with the lightest punishment, a maximum of 10 years of jail time is on the lighter side of sentencing; especially for crimes that involve an extremely high BAC like in Ms. Thompson's.
One of the states with the harshest sentences, Tennessee, has a minimum of 8 years to maximum of 30 year sentence for vehicular homicide and a minimum of 15 years and maximum of 60 years jail sentence for aggravated vehicular homicide.
So, what punishment is fair for a driver who makes a terrible decision to drive impaired and takes a life? Victims' families may argue that anything less than a life sentence is too light, while others say 10 years is too severe if a person is genuinely remorseful for their actions. There are no current plans for California to increase the penalties for vehicular manslaughter, so for now this decision will be left for judge's to decide.