For a teenager, getting a driver’s license is a rite of passage: the beginning of a journey toward social independence.  For some parents, however, it’s a reality marred by a myriad of “what ifs” and unsettling statistics.

Last year my 19 year old client was involved in, and responsible for, a car accident that killed his best friend, injured another, and totaled numerous vehicles.

He was charged with DUI manslaughter, DUI personal injuries, and 6 counts of DUI property damage.

Under the Florida Punishment Code, even though he had never been in trouble before, he scored out to a minimum sentence of 10.46, up to 22, years in Florida State Prison.

The tragedy of this case is that one of two great kids with bright futures made one horrific decision. The result was that one lost his life and the other will have to live with the consequence of this tragic accident for the rest of his.

My client had never been in trouble before this incident, had never intended to drive that night, and only did so, just shortly before this accident.

Two families were totally destroyed and devastated that fateful evening.

My client pled GUILTY, in October 2017, taking full responsibility for his actions with no promises of any kind as to what his sentence would eventually be.

We recently had a 5 ½ hour heart wrenching, intensely emotional, and extremely draining sentencing.

The grave remorse and regret my client has exhibited, has experienced, and will continue to do so, has been so extreme it is difficult to put into words.

The judge granted a downward departure from the guidelines and sentenced the Defendant as a Youthful Offender, giving him 2 years in a YO facility, followed by 2 years of community control, then followed by 2 years of probation.

This judge recognized that this crime was the result of terribly bad judgment, versus someone with an evil mind, and crafted a sentence to fit the crime and the offender while also serving in some way to attempt to repair the damage caused by this terrible act.

As part of the sentence my client will have to do 100 hours of community service each year, which he is going to do speaking to teenagers and will have to relive in his own words over and over again (via SADD and the Broward County school system), letting students know how he killed his best friend, the dangers of drinking and driving, and how a moment of indiscretion can have profound and devastating effects on the lives of so many people.

My client plans to mitigate his sentence by completing boot camp so that he can begin to dedicate the rest of his life to trying to prevent this from happening to others, in the honor of his best friend, and to try and make something positive come from so much devastation.

I made BOTH of my daughters attend this sentencing because just about anyone can, “but for the grace of G-d” be in a similar type of situation.  There are not many of us who can honestly say “it could never have been me”!

I hope this post can hopefully hit home to some of you reading this, or passed on to someone who it possibly may.