Attorney J. Bradley Smith answering the question: “Are breath test results always accurate?”
In an odd drunk driving case out of Charlotte, a judge in Mecklenburg County recently accepted a plea deal for a driver only several hours after another judge rejected the identical deal.
The plea deal involved a sad case where a passenger was killed in the car driven by Bairon Sandoval. The accident took place last February and Sandoval was initially charged with felony death by vehicle, DWI and lacking a valid driver’s license. His criminal defense attorney was able to reach a deal with prosecutors who agreed to reduce the charge to involuntary manslaughter in exchange for Sandoval serving between 10 and 20 months behind bars.
Sandoval had admitted that he and several friends had spent the evening drinking in a bar prior to driving home with a friend, 20-year-old Tatiana Rivera. Rivera was killed and two other innocent victims were injured in the accident that occurred after Sandoval ran into a tree near the intersection of Tyvola and Old Pineville Roads. Police officers tested Sandoval’s blood and determined his BAC was 0.10 percent, slightly higher than the state’s 0.08 percent legal limit.
Given that the plea deal had been reached between the prosecutor and Sandoval’s attorney, all that remained was to have a judge sign off on the deal, something that is typically only seen as a formality. Such deals are commonplace and save both sides significant time and money, reducing the risks that are inherent in a criminal trial. Despite the deal already being in place, one judge initially disagreed with the plea arrangement, saying that he was not willing to sign off on such a light sentence given that Sandoval’s drunk driving had directly led to another person’s death.
The first judge, Superior Court Judge Boner, took the opportunity to broadly criticize North Carolina’s drunk driving laws, arguing that the laws naming 0.08, as the state’s legal limit ought to be changed, in fact, sharply stiffened. According to Boner, the legislature should institute tougher rules that would make it illegal to drive after consuming any alcohol whatsoever. Given his views on drunk driving, Judge Boner said he would not sign off on such a light sentence, fearing that it would send the wrong message to others.
After the first Mecklenburg County judge rejected the deal, prosecutors and Sandoval’s attorney feared that a trial might need to move forward. However, only a few hours after the initial rejection, Sandoval went before a different judge who accepted the deal. Sandoval ultimately pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced to a sentence of between 12 and 24 months.
Arnold & Smith, PLLC is a Charlotte based criminal defense, traffic violation defense and civil litigation law firm servicing Charlotte and the surrounding area. If you or someone you know need legal assistance, please contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today at (704) 370-2828.
About the Author:
Brad Smith is a Managing Member with Arnold & Smith, PLLC where he focuses on the areas of criminal defense, DUI / DWI defense and traffic defense. Mr. Smith began his legal career in Charlotte, North Carolina as an Assistant District Attorney. In 2006, he entered private practice focusing almost entirely on criminal defense.
Born and raised in Charlotte, Mr. Smith is married with one son and one daughter. In his free time, he enjoys traveling, boating, golf and hiking near his mountain home in western North Carolina.
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