Florida Circuit Judge Charles Burton recently upheld North Lauderdale defendant Kenneth Jenkins’ 33-year sentence for DUI manslaughter, the longest sentence ever imposed in Florida for this crime.
Jenkins pleaded guilty to causing a 2008 head-on collision on Interstate 95 that killed three victims. Jenkins’ blood-alcohol level that night was .182, more than two times the legal limit. In fact, Jenkins was so drunk that he has no memory of the crash.
Although Florida guidelines called for a minimum of roughly 32 years in prison (and a maximum of a life term), Jenkins was expecting a 4-8-year sentence. He was a first-time offender and was remorseful for the wrong-way crash, a sentiment he communicated at his 2011 sentencing hearing. To his shock, however, Jenkins received a nearly 33-year sentence from the Palm Beach County judge.
After learning that Jenkins was continuing to drink after the accident, a cousin of one of the victims hired a private investigator. The investigator shot a video showing the defendant playing beer pong while out on bail within weeks of the sentencing and turned it over to the court. While Jenkins said this was a one-time occurrence stemming from his fear of going to prison, Circuit Judge Richard Oftedal said the video was a primary motivation for the lengthy term.
Jenkins hired new counsel after the sentencing, who argued that Jenkins’ original attorneys were ineffective. His new counsel argued that Jenkins would have been incarcerated for a significantly shorter term had he taken a plea after the accident. Moreover, they argued that Jenkins’ case dragged on unnecessarily because former counsel tried to pursue the unfruitful defense that it was the victims’ car, rather than Jenkins’ vehicle, that was driving the wrong way. The delay led to Jenkins being caught on video playing beer pong at a bar while out on bail.
In upholding the sentence, Judge Burton said the beer pong video was the “nail in the coffin.” Judge Burton believes the lawyers were not incompetent and put on a professionally adequate defense. Florida prosecutor Linda Harrison said that for the judge to undo the punishment would be “a travesty and a true injustice,” given the fact that Jenkins got the minimum punishment under the guidelines, and three people died.
A son of one of the victims said Jenkins should not be portrayed as the victim of an incompetent attorney. As Judge Oftedal put it, Jenkins’ participation in a drinking game so close to sentencing was “a slap in the face” to the victims and their survivors.
If you have been charged with a DUI crime in Illinois, it is crucial to speak to an experienced Illinois DUI lawyer as soon as possible. Harvatin Law Offices, PC provides knowledgeable representation to people in Springfield and throughout Illinois. We have considerable experience defending individuals charged with DUI offenses and representing drivers with revoked licenses before the Illinois Secretary of State. To learn more, and to set up a free initial consultation, contact us online or call us toll-free at 1-800-829-8513.
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