In 2012, 22-year-old Rebecca Padowitz, from Wakulla County, Florida, was driving while under the influence when she over corrected her Jeep Cherokee. As a result, her passenger, Rona Hawkins died in a fiery crash caused when Padowitz lost control of the vehicle she was driving. In March, she was found guilty of DUI manslaughter for her role in the death, and recently she was sentenced to 10 years in prison as a result.
The maximum sentence for DUI manslaughter, a second-degree felony, is 15 years in prison. A judge, however, has the discretion to sentence less than this under most circumstances. Judges follow sentencing guidelines and a check sheet that help to calculate all of the factors that could come in to play when it comes to determining a sentence. Some of these factors can include prior convictions and the severity of the crime along with other factors that may lead to giving a lighter sentence. Judges do not always sentence someone convicted of a crime to the maximum sentence allowed under the law and if they do, it is likely the defendant would appeal the sentence and have it lowered.
In this case, Padowitz has been credited for the time she has been in jail since she was arrested for DUI manslaughter, meaning that she could be out of jail in between 8 ½ and 9 years from now, assuming she does not get released early for some reason.
Parole or time taken off of Padowitz’s sentence for good behavior largely depends on how Padowitz behaves in jail, but it is not likely that she would get a huge amount of time off under Florida law. Florida has some of the toughest parole laws in the country, meaning that no inmate can serve less than 85% of their sentence, regardless of the circumstances of their imprisonment or the crime that they committed. This means that the shortest amount of time that Padowitz could really serve would be another 6 years – 85% of her 10-year sentence with credit for time already served. This is the case regardless of whether or not she has good behavior in prison and also regardless of her crime being a non-violent one.
Because this was a sentence based on a jury verdict, as opposed to a sentence given after a plea deal, Padowitz has some good opportunities when it comes to appealing her sentence or possibly even appealing her verdict. A lot of that would depend on what happened during trial. The procedure behind this is complicated, but it is pretty likely that her attorney already got the ball rolling. Appeals are done in nearly all criminal cases at this point under the hopes of lowering a sentence or even getting a conviction overturned entirely. It is pretty likely that it will be happening in this case as well.
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