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Alternate sentence possible for convicted Virginia teen

A juvenile can be tried, convicted and sentenced as an adult. A Virginia judge may agree to an alternative sentence, one compatible with the defendant's age that would allow the juvenile to avoid incarceration with adults. Sentencing rulings in these cases are dependent upon the unique circumstances of the crime.

A Roanoke County teen with a driver's permit took three friends on a joy ride last November. The 16-year-old male grabbed the keys to his mother's Hyundai and drove off before sun up. The inexperienced driver lost control of the car, as the vehicle sped through a residential neighborhood at up to 50 mph.

The Hyundai went airborne after leaving the road and hit a utility pole. The car came to a stop in a yard, after flipping over and landing on its roof. A front seat passenger, the sole occupant wearing a seat belt, escaped serious injury.

Two friends in the rear seat, ages 18 and 20, were killed in the rollover crash. The young driver was badly injured. Alcohol was detected in the teen's system but not enough to charge the boy with DUI, even as an underage drunk driver.

The teen pleaded guilty to double counts of involuntary manslaughter. The convicted juvenile, now 17, requested an evaluation of the case for possible alternative sentencing. During a hearing, a judge declared the teen was guilty of the charges and agreed to move the sentencing date to a later time.

The judge has several choices. He may decide the teen should be sent to a juvenile correctional center or placed in youthful offender program. Since the teen was convicted in an adult court, a prison sentence of up to 20 years is also possible.

Criminal defense attorneys are aware that harsh penalties for young offenders can be disastrous for a juvenile's future. Lawyers work with teens, their parents and courts to minimize punishments.

Source: The Roanoke Times, "Roanoke County teen convicted of manslaughter in fatal crash" Laurence Hammack, Jul. 09, 2014

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