10-Day Sentence for DUI Death – Fair, Lenient, or a Joke?

10 day sentence for DUI deathDUI court cases come and go every day in every state. But a few of the decisions cause people to question the purpose of sentencing and punishment. One cases ended recently in Chicago.

Ryne San Hamel of Park Ridge, Illinois pled guilty to striking and killing a bicyclist in Old Town while driving under the influence of alcohol back in 2013. The charges were reckless homicide and aggravated drunken driving. His blood alcohol was almost twice the legal limit, and he was driving at about double the 30 mph speed limit. He had previous DUI offenses.

His sentence: 10 days in jail, $25,000 restitution, and 4 years’ probation.

Predictably, the decision outraged a lot pf people, especially the city’s bicyclists, who feel that their safety is not being taken seriously.

DUI Death: Is Accepting Responsibility Enough?

The judge accepted the defense’s argument that San Hamel was remorseful and accepted responsibility for the crash. Moreover, the driver did have right of way – the bicyclist, Bobby Cann, ran a red light.  Finally, one of his previous DUI charges was dropped, so it couldn’t be taken into account.

The conclusion was that a prison sentence would not be what the defendant needed.

What the Verdict Says to Illinois Citizens

There’s a good argument that the judge’s verdict is a proclamation that drunk driving is not necessarily a serious crime. If you express enough sorrow for your actions, you’ll be let off the hook – and ten days in jail can be considered off the hook given that he took a human life.

We can argue over what would be a proper sentence: the job of a judge is not easy, and sentencing is considered one of the most difficult, if not the most difficult, part of the job.

There are guidelines for DUI sentencing in Illinois and every state, and there is a purpose to them. They are to help a judge impose a sentence which, according to the United States Sentencing Commission:

  • Reflects a just punishment for the crime
  • Deters others from committing the same crime in order to protect society
  • Incapacitates an offender from repeating the crime, if necessary
  • Helps to rehabilitate the criminal

Does this sentence – for a DUI death – do any of these?