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December 8, 2011

Notable NJ appellate reversal of 30-year sentence for drunk driving homicide

This local article, headlined "Appellate panel orders reconsidering 30-year sentence in Lower Township drunken-driving death," reports on an interesting state appellate sentencing ruling from New Jersey. Here are the basics:

A state appellate panel ruled Wednesday that a judge should reconsider the 30-year prison term imposed on Philadelphia resident John J. Lawless in the death of Lower Township resident Frederick Shelton Sr.

Lawless, 39, was sentenced for first-degree aggravated manslaughter in November 2010, more than a year after Lawless, with a blood-alcohol content of .229, crashed into the car Shelton was driving on Route 9 in Lower Township.   The Sept. 12, 2009, crash killed Shelton, 50, and left his wife and daughter with serious injuries.

At sentencing, Superior Court Judge Raymond Batten said several aggravating factors played a part in his decision to sentence Lawless to 30 years in state prison.   Those included the gravity and seriousness of the harm inflicted by Lawless, and the extent of the defendant’s prior criminal record and the seriousness of the offenses of which he had been convicted.  The appellate panel found that those two factors should not have been given weight in the sentencing.

According to the appellate panel’s written decision, the judge cited both Shelton’s death and the injuries suffered by his wife and daughter during the sentencing.   Lawless argued that because he was only sentenced for the crime against Shelton, aggravated manslaughter, that the injuries of the car’s other passengers should not be considered.

The appellate court agreed noting that “a distinction must be drawn between the direct harm inflicted on the victim of the particular charge to which the defendant pleads and the direct harm inflicted on third parties.”

In the case of “aggravating factor six,” the appellate panel found that the judge considered Lawless’ extensive drunken-driving history in Pennsylvania, but Lawless argued those cases should not have played a part in his sentencing.  Because they were out-of-state convictions, the New Jersey court also found those Pennsylvania convictions should also not have been considered under aggravating factor six.

The court did find, however, that Batten appropriately applied aggravating factors related to the risk Lawless would commit another crime and the need to deter him and others from violating the law.

The rull written opinion in this case is available at this link.

December 8, 2011 at 08:54 AM | Permalink

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Comments

"Because they were out-of-state convictions, the New Jersey court also found those Pennsylvania convictions should also not have been considered under aggravating factor six."

Penny wise but pound foolish. Due process, but not due justice.

The judge must needs follow the rules, but
(1)the defendant has to receive a separate trial for seriously injuring his other victims? &
(2)the defendant's prior criminal convictions are not relevant because they were committed over the border?

Posted by: Adamakis | Dec 8, 2011 12:03:19 PM

i think the court was retarded in this!

"In the case of “aggravating factor six,” the appellate panel found that the judge considered Lawless’ extensive drunken-driving history in Pennsylvania, but Lawless argued those cases should not have played a part in his sentencing. Because they were out-of-state convictions, the New Jersey court also found those Pennsylvania convictions should also not have been considered under aggravating factor six."

sorry if your a CONVICTED drunk ahole in new york
a drunk convicted ahole in miss
a drunk CONVICTED ahole in calif
then you manage to KILL someone as a DRUNK ahole in florida IT SHOULD ALL COME IN!

Posted by: rodsmith | Dec 8, 2011 1:51:59 PM

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