According to the Quincy Patriot-Ledger, a Hull man has been sentenced to two years in Plymouth County jail and another four years of probation for a first OUI charge. Derrick D. Jones, 39, admitted that he was drunk when he drove his Chrysler 300 sedan at about 70 miles per hour the wrong way down Summer Street in Hingham on Feb. 19, 2009. Jones crashed head-on into the Toyota Sienna minivan of Courtney Palek, 30, of Hingham, and her three small children. The minivan ran off the road and Jones's car rolled over onto its roof on the sidewalk. Luckily, everyone involved survived the crash with minimal injury, which police said was because they were all using seat belts or age-appropriate child car seats.
I took note of this article, as a Massachusetts drunk driving defense attorney, because a sentence of two years in jail and four years of probation seems quite harsh for a first-offense OUI, for which the maximum is 2.5 years. In fact, the article says that Jones was originally charged with second-offense OUI, but he agreed to a plea bargain in which he pleaded guilty to first offense drunken driving, driving negligently, speeding and failing to stay in marked lanes. Jones has a history of legal trouble in addition to the first OUI. He has served time in state prison for breaking and entering in the night and larceny, and he is currently awaiting disposition of similar charges in two recent incidents in Hull. In addition, he had been cited earlier on the day of the crash for failing to wear a seat belt while he was a passenger in someone else's car.
The news reports do not say whether Jones was represented by a Massachusetts OUI defense attorney, but the stiff sentence Jones received in this case demonstrates how important it is to have expert legal representation if you're in a situation like this. Of course, an experienced attorney can help clients like Jones defend themselves vigorously against the most recent charges, or if a plea bargain is offered, advise them on whether the bargain is fair and worthwhile. In addition, I suspect that Jones's previous record played a part in the judge's decision to hand down the unusually harsh sentence. If Jones had been able to defend himself successfully from his first OUI or the larceny and break-in charges, he may have been able to avoid having them on his record. That might have weighed in his favor during the sentencing for this incident.