In February 2011, Leroy Johnson was arrested for DUI after doing a U-turn on Broad Street after a “beef and beer” event, hitting a SUV that careened out of control into a couple on the sidewalk, killing one of them and seriously injuring the other, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. Johnson was found to have a 0.20% blood alcohol content at the time of the accident, well over twice the legal limit.
Last week, Johnson was sentenced to 5-10 years in prison on charges of homicide by motor vehicle while driving under the influence and aggravated assault by vehicle, according to the Inquirer. Once the prison term is finished, Johnson will be subject to four years of court-monitored probation that includes mandatory drug and alcohol testing and treatment.
Had Johnson only received a DUI with his 0.20% blood alcohol level ("BAC"), he still would have been facing time in prison. Pennsylvania and other states have higher penalties for DUIs with BACs over a certain level, usually twice the legal limit.
These aggravated DUI charges bring with them penalties such as a one year license suspension, $1,000-$5,000 fines, and up to 5 years in prison depending on prior DUI offenses.
Those weren't enough for Johnson, as he ended up causing a man's death. Pennsylvania's homicide by vehicle law provides for a third degree felony if driving under the influence is the cause of the accident, and not just reckless or negligent driving.
However, the maximum sentence for a third degree felony is 7 years. Since the judge obviously wanted to give Johnson more time, as evidenced by Judge DeFino-Nastasi's comment that "this was not an accident," she used the sentence available for assault by motor vehicle, according to the Inquirer.
What is interesting is that you will actually be charged with a higher penalty if you only injure a person than if you kill them. Homicide by vehicle with a DUI is a third degree felony. However, aggravated assault with a DUI that leads to serious injury is a second degree felony.
A third degree felony has a maximum sentence of 3.5-7 years, while a second degree felony has a maximum sentence of 5-10 years. At least the judge used this to her advantage to get Johnson off of the streets.
So, if you're attending the "beef and beer" event in the future, be sure to have a designated driver. Even if you don't kill a person directly, if you cause a person to die or be injured, you will be going to jail for a good amount of time for homicide by vehicle or aggravated assault by vehicle.
- Searching for a DUI Lawyer in Philadelphia? (FindLaw)
- DUI Sentencing Alternative For First Time Offenders: ARD (FindLaw's Philadelphia DUI Blog)
- Weekly Roundup: DUI Sentencing in Bucks County (FindLaw's Philadelphia DUI Blog)