If you drive southwest on Interstate 81 for a couple of hours, you will come to the town of Lexington. That's where a Washington & Lee University senior attended a fraternity party on a winter evening, just over a year ago. The night ended tragically when the senior was killed in a car accident.
Police blamed the 21-year-old man who was behind the wheel of the SUV taking her and others home from the party. The young man was tested after the crash and had "about twice the legal threshold (0.08 percent)" at the time of the crash, according to a newspaper report.
After months of careful negotiations carried out by his attorneys, he eventually pleaded guilty to aggravated involuntary manslaughter and DUI. A prosecutor said that the defendant originally faced 20 years in prison on the charge, but with the plea deal, he will serve 85 percent of a three-year sentence.
The prosecutor noted that negotiations with the DUI defense attorneys were not contentious. The young man was apparently remorseful and understood that he would have to serve some time behind bars for what he had done.
At the same time, many people would argue that he was a young college student who had made a serious mistake that many college students make: driving drunk. Unfortunately, the people in the vehicle he drove that night made mistakes by not wearing their seatbelts.
Part of what defense attorneys do is fight for justice in negotiations with prosecutors. That can sometimes mean that attorneys help a person who has made a mistake own up to the error, and receive reasonable - rather than excessive - punishment.