Is a lifetime driving ban an appropriate sentence?
Rhode Islanders are asking this question in light of a sentence handed down to 17-year-old Lyle Topa last week. The teen was racing in October and slammed into a tree, injuring himself and three others. He was driving on a suspended license at the time and had just left a party where he and his friends had been drinking.
When asked about the lifetime ban, Judge William Guglietta explained that it was time to get serious about teen drivers who have become a real danger on the road.
A number of Rhode Island lawmakers think the lifetime driving ban goes too far, reports the Boston Herald. Lifetime bans are for repeat drunken drivers, not teens who may mature into responsible adults.
This may be true, and is an argument likely to be made if Lyle Topa chooses to appeal his sentence. Sentences are supposed to be proportionate to the crime and, when they involve minors, appropriate for the age. While the teen was accused of illegal racing, driving on a suspended license and driving while intoxicated, he's still a minor. A lifetime driving ban doesn't necessarily take into account his immaturity.
If the state's higher courts disagree, Topa still has other options. At some point in the future, he can ask the court to reduce his sentence, explains the Westerly Sun. But before he can do this, he will probably need to get his life in order -- stay out of trouble and maintain a steady job or be in school. He'll need to prove that he has learned from his mistakes and is now a responsible member of society.
If he can do this, the chances of Lyle Topa remaining on a lifetime driving ban are pretty slim.
- RI teenager gets license revoked for life (KABC)
- Criminal Sentencing (FindLaw)
- Teen Driving: Texting, Cell Phone Calls, and Other Distractions, Oh My! (FindLaw's Technologist)