A recent criminal case has made history as the first homicide texting while driving prosecution in the state of Wisconsin. The case was decided by a jury in July, when the 21-year-old driver was found guilty on a charge of homicide by negligent driving. She was sentenced last week to spend one year in prison. The verdict will likely lead the way for other criminal trials in which a car accident occurs because a driver is distracted by texting.
The accident that led to the conviction occurred in October of 2010. The 21-year-old victim’s car had broken down, and he was standing at the rear of the vehicle when he was struck by the other driver’s minivan. Authorities allege that the young woman was distracted due to texting at the time that she crashed into the victim.
In addition to the prison sentence, the woman will be required to undergo two years of extended supervision upon her release and will have to spend 100 hours speaking publicly about the dangers of texting while driving. While the victim’s family had sought the maximum sentence of 10 years combined prison and extended supervision, they stated that they felt that the sentence handed down was fair.
Although the prosecution was successful in achieving a conviction in this groundbreaking case, the family of the victim still retains the right to pursue a civil suit for wrongful death in the matter. While no combination of criminal and civil proceedings can bring back their son, a civil trial could help them to pay for any medical costs that came from this car accident as well as the cost of his final arrangements and other damages.
Source: Wisconsin State Journal, “Sun Prairie woman sentenced to 1 year in prison for fatal texting crash,” Ed Treleven, Sept. 22, 2012