The Kentucky House is expected to vote this week on a proposed bill that would prohibit shock probation in driving under the influence (DUI) cases that involve fatalities. Representative Robert Benvenuti, the Bill’s sponsor, said that the legislation would affect those convicted of second-degree manslaughter or reckless homicide.
Shock probation is the policy where a judge orders a convicted offender to prison for a short time then suspends the remainder of the sentence in favor of probation. Currently, families of those victims in DUI fatality cases may find those convicted of the crime have been released months after serving part of their time. “Often only after serving 60 days, 90 days or six months for taking the life of another individual because they chose to be impaired while driving,” Benvenuti said.
Carolyn Scharf, whose 17-year-old daughter died in 1985 after being hit by an impaired driver spoke to committee members who had experienced this. Scharf said the offender was released from jail after only 63 days of their sentence. According to Scharf, “Shock probation let her walk out of Jefferson County jail after 63 days. Our loss is a lifetime sentence. There is no shock probation for us.”
This bill is completely separate from House Bill 261, which passed the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, 2/22. This Bill would only let people be convicted of a first-offense DUI once in a lifetime, regardless of when the offense occurred. Kentucky law treats DUI offenses on a sliding scale – penalties worsen with each additional offense. However, with a current look back period of ten years, offenders can have two DUIs, more than ten years apart, and have both treated as first offenses, often with no jail time.
This bill comes with contention, as house democrats are afraid that it will penalize offenders for the rest of their life for one mistake. But Republican state representative Jim DuPlessis, who sponsored the Bill, said that it would discourage reckless behavior.
“The whole idea is your first stays with you. If that is not agreeable to you, this is not the bill for you, quite frankly,” said Republican Rep. Robert Benvenuti. “The whole idea is the offense remains so the system cannot be manipulated by those who choose to manipulate it.”
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