People don’t seem to realize that public safety laws are made for just that, public safety. Speed limits, car inspections, and DUI laws are all on the books to try and limit the number of people injured or killed while driving or just existing near a road.
These principles are well illustrated by Donald Dinkins III, who in January was speeding 14 miles per hour over the limit, intoxicated on marijuana, and driving a car that had failed inspection with a special note from the mechanic that the car “should not be driven.” While Dinkins was breaking these public safety laws, he failed to avoid Sharon Ann Minnick as she attempted to cross the road, causing another pedestrian death in Horsham, according to phillyBurbs.com.
Dinkins was charged with vehicular homicide and DUI in April and has been in jail since, according to Hatboro-Horsham Patch. When Dinkins had his hearing this week, he agreed to a plea deal offered by the county and was sentenced to 11.5 to 23 months in prison, according to phillyBurbs.
Is that too low?
First, to make it clear, in Pennsylvania, driving under the influence of any controlled substance is considered a DUI. It is possible to get a DUI if you have even the remnants of a wild party in your system. Also, if there is any suspicion of intoxication in an accident, you can be asked to submit to a drug test.
Sentencing for DUI usually carries relatively light penalties for a first time arrest, potentially concluding without even a license suspension in some cases. However, when injuries or death is concerned the penalties are increased. In a strange coincidence, driving under the influence of a controlled substance with a prior conviction and accidentally killing someone while driving under the influence have the same grading under the vehicle code.
Another interesting fact is that because of the constitutional protection against double jeopardy, a person cannot be charged with a DUI death offense and also vehicular manslaughter if there is not another reason besides driving under the influence that caused the crash.
Here, Dinkins could be charged with both because while he was driving under the influence, he was also breaking the speed limit and driving a car that failed safety inspection. These negligent actions were outside of a DUI offense and thus could be used to prove vehicular manslaughter.
Since vehicular manslaughter is a third degree felony, it seems as though the county gave Dinkins the option to plead guilty to the lesser offense of death caused by DUI, which is only a first degree misdemeanor which can have a sentence of 90 days to 5 years. It is likely that Dinkins got a lesser sentence because he has been in jail since April and has expressed remorse throughout the process for causing the death of a pedestrian in Horsham.
- Seeking out a DUI Lawyer in Philadelphia? (FindLaw)
- Man Awaits DUI Trial in Pedestrian Death (FindLaw's Philadelphia DUI Blog)
- Aleandro Drosi DUI: Charged in Death of 11-Year-Old (FindLaw's Philadelphia DUI Blog)