A Cottonwood, Alabama, man recently received a 100-year jail sentence following his conviction for a fatal 2006 traffic accident that resulted in the deaths of the man's wife, 10-year-old son and young friend. All three were killed when the car they were riding in, driven by the father, 34-year-old Kenneth McDaniel, swerved into the path of an oncoming tractor-trailer. McDaniel, who was charged with DUI manslaughter and assault, had a blood alcohol content of 0.055% an hour after the crash. The legal blood-alcohol content in Alabama is 0.08%.
While we all sympathize with families of the victims of this terrible accident, there is no way that this man should have received a conviction for driving under the influence, or that alcohol was a contributing factor in the deaths of his family and young passenger. First of all, his blood alcohol may have actually been rising at the time of the accident.
For instance, if he recently had a beer with dinner his blood alcohol content was likely rising, not falling (as I am sure the prosecution contended). Furthermore, in order to prove alcohol was a factor in the deaths of his family members, the state of Alabama would have to prove that his driving was effected by the alcohol. It seems the only evidence that alcohol effected his driving is the crash itself, and there was testimony in the case that McDaniel only had one beer on the night of the crash.
This case should wake the people of Alabama up. If you drink at all, have beer or wine with dinner, and are involved in an accident while going home, you may be charged with DUI manslaughter and assault. For one beer or a glass of wine you or a loved one could end up in jail for 100 years. This is an absolute tragedy upon tragedy. How much more can the State of Alabama take from the man?
Cases like these are why I am an Alabama DUI and Criminal Defense lawyer and attorney. It makes me ashamed that Federal Highway dollars and the constant lobbying of the MADD Mothers Against Drunk Drivers have caused a free country to come to this. I can only hope this case can be overturned on appeal. It should be shocking that an accident can sentence someone to 100 years in prison when an outright murder carries far less time. The judge that sentenced this man should be ashamed of himself as well. Of course, this judge is just pandering to the constituency that elects him by trying to appear tough on crime, so maybe we all should be held accountable as well.