19-year-old Sabastian Prosa killed two people in a head-on collision on Highway 427 in Ontario, while driving with a blood alcohol concentration almost twice the legal limit. The Crown asked for an eight-year sentence, but the judge gave Prosa five years in prison. His reasoning was that five years was enough to deter others from the crime of drunk driving, but short enough to allow for the offender’s rehabilitation.
The victims’ family is “not pleased” with the verdict, and neither are many citizens of the province. They note that there will be no rehabilitation for the victims, nor for their friends and family, who suffer a permanent loss. A 16-year-old girl and her father died in the drunk driving crash, and the girl’s mother was severely injured.
At the time of this writing, an informal Toronto Sun poll reveals that 90% of readers are dissatisfied with the five-year sentence.
Horrible and devastating as the crime was, one can see the judge’s viewpoint. He was not only concerned with the satisfaction of the families, but with the fate of Prosa. Does he ever deserve to live a normal life, and will an extra-long prison sentence rob him of the chance? According to the judge, the offender was, in other respects, a good man, and the drunk driving could be seen as “out of character.”
This is the unique nature of impaired driving as a crime. The drinking (or drug) diminishes judgment, so the violence of the drunk driving crash, while blamed on the driver, is still seen as out of his or her control in some way. In other words, despite its’ being Prosa’s fault, it’s seen as not deliberate.
That despite endless warnings about the dangers of driving everywhere in Canada.
There is no solution that will satisfy everyone. Quadruple the sentence, and perhaps some would say justice was done. But a young man would have no chance of a life. And there remains a feeling that he did not deliberately kill those people, but deliberately made a bad decision that led to their deaths. Those are, for most people, two different things.
The case is settled, but the conversation has started, and perhaps it will continue and spark ideas for better legislation, treatment and prevention of drunk driving. It won’t bring back the victims, but it will help create fewer of them in the future.