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Consecutive Sentencing Upheld in a Vehicular Homicide Case

In criminal sentencing for multiple convictions where the convictions are not required by law to run consecutive to each other, the trial court can, in the court's discretion, impose the convictions consecutively if the court finds one of several specific statutory conditions apply. The conditions are listed in Tennessee Code Annotated 40-35-115(b). One of those conditions is if the defendant "is a dangerous offender whose behavior indicates little or no regard for human life, and no hesitation about committing a crime in which the risk to human life is high." This condition can be found with intentionally violent crime. It can also apply to a defendant whose reckless conduct shows little or no regard for human life. The Court of Criminal Appeals found this to be the case in the recent opinion in State v. Boldus, M2011-0036-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. crim. App. 8-11-2011).

In the Boldus case, the Defendant pled guilty to vehicular homicide by recklessness and leaving the scene of an accident involving death. The Defendant, who was nineteen at the time of the crime, had been driving with a blood alcohol level of .11 and crashed the vehicle, killing a passenger. The trial court, in rendering a sentencing decision, ordered the sentences for both crimes to run consecutive to each other and ordered that they be served in incarceration (no probation). The trial court found the Defendant to be a "dangerous offender with little or no regard for human life" based on the reckless circumstances which led to the death of the victim in this case, and the Defendant's own acknowledgment that he had driven while consuming alcohol on previous occasions. In addition, the trial court found the Defendant had continued to consume alcohol unlawfully even after the criminal incident in this case.

When relying upon the "dangerous offender" condition, the trial court must also find that the consecutive sentencing is reasonably related to the seriousness of the offense and is necessary to protect the public from further criminal conduct of the defendant. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the trial court's reliance on the "dangerous offender" condition in this case to impose consecutive sentencing for vehicular homicide and leaving the scene of an accident involving death.

For more information on when a trial court may order consecutive sentencing for multiple convictions, contact Hindman & Associates.

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