Bill which aims to stop shock probation in fatal DUI cases passes Senate committee

03/02/2017 02:04 PM

FRANKFORT – A bill which would eliminate the option of shock probation in fatal DUI crashes was passed Thursday by the Senate Committee on Judiciary.

House Bill 222, sponsored by Robert Benvenuti, R-Lexington, would prohibit shock probation if a person is convicted of manslaughter in the second degree, or reckless homicide related to driving under the influence.

Benvenuti believes that too many families who have suffered the loss of a loved one as the hands of a drunk driver are punished when the convicted offender winds up serving an extremely short sentence.

“We’re not going to allow a jury to speak, or for a negotiated settlement to be worked out to deceive families into thinking that the individual who took their loved ones life is going to receive one penalty, and then about six months later, come back and say, no, no, no, actually they’re not going to serve six years, or eight years, or 10 years, or five years, we’re letting them out today, six months later,” Benvenuti said. “Six months later for taking a life.”

Michigan resident Debbie Moskwa, told committee members how her son died in 2002 after he and his father, were involved in a four-car drunken driving collision while traveling through Kentucky along Interstate 71.

“To be thrown into the turmoil of Ricky’s death, and the process of the criminal system, we believed that those who killed Ricky would be punished to the fullest extent of the law,” Moskwa said. “We did not know that we would be inflicted with more pain when hearing shock probation was granted after the person signed a plea agreement, sentenced to 13 years but serving only 240 days.”

Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Paducah, voted yes on the bill to get it out of committee, but had concerns that there could be some DUI cases where shock probation should still be an option.

“A driver in the car is intoxicated, the passenger voluntarily, knowingly got into the car, could be your buddy, could be a family member, they take off, there is a collision, passenger in the car dies, the case winds up being prosecuted, the driver is found guilty of manslaughter 2, you’re in a situation that it could be one son, could be cousins, could be best friends, and taking that discretion away from a judge to grant shock probation under those circumstances, concerns me,” Carroll said.

Sen. Robin Webb, D-Grayson, who, along with Sen. Wil Schroder, R-Wilder, voted against the bill, believes that whether to grant shock probation should rest with the judge, not the General Assembly.

“Nobody knows that case better than that judge sitting there,” Webb said. “Many factors go into a plea agreement and many factors go into a jury verdict. I hate to take away discretion of a duly elected judge that is familiar with the facts over every case and everybody knows that when you enter a plea agreement, shock probation could be an option.”

HB 222 will move on to the full Senate for consideration.

Don Weber

Don Weber is a Video Journalist for Spectrum News and covers politics and education on Pure Politics, Kentucky’s only nightly program dedicated to state politics. Don is a lifelong Kentuckian and a graduate of Northern Kentucky University. He spent many years covering sports in the Northern Kentucky area before shifting primarily to politics. You can watch Don’s work weeknights at 7:00 and 11:30 on Pure Politics, available exclusively on Spectrum News, HD Channels 403 and 715. If you have a story idea you can reach Don at donald.weber@charter.com.

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