Teenager driver sentenced to community service
December 13, 2011
The 16-year-old driver who struck Silver Creek resident Lacey Picard on September 5 was sentenced to 175 hours of community service and placed on probation by a judge on Friday, a sentence that is much too light according to Lacey’s father, Hans Picard.
The teenage girl was driving on Silver Creek Road when she hit Picard who was riding her horse. Picard suffered severe brain trauma and has been slowly recovering in a rehabilitation center in Salt Lake City.
Summit County Attorney David Brickey said the teenager pleaded guilty to a Class A Misdemeanor for reckless endangerment and a Class B Misdemeanor of cruelty to animals. Brickey agreed to dismiss the Class C Misdemeanor of careless driving.
Judge Mark May ordered the teenager to complete an Alive at 25 class, placed her on prohibition, revoked her license until she is 21, and ordered her to serve 175 hours of community service including speaking with other teenagers about the dangers of distracted driving.
The teenager was also ordered, at the request of Picard’s father, to visit Picard in the hospital within the next two weeks and to pay for Picard’s medical bills. Since the medical expenses are ongoing, May said the two families have a year to decide on restitution payments.
The teenager’s lawyer, Gail Laser, told The Park Record that May did not give the girl jail time because the teenager was visibly remorseful and had been punishing herself enough.
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"Detention would not impress on her the weight of the situation anymore," Laser said. "She is a good kid that has never been in trouble before. This has been a devastating experience for her and has really changed her. She is no longer the upbeat person she was before. Her life has been negatively affected along with Lacey’s."
Linda Watkins, who has been visiting her friend Lacey in the hospital every day, said that by not giving the driver jail time, the judge is tells other young people that driving while distracted is not "that serious."
"Only giving her community service is way too lenient," Watkins said. "She has not yet seen Lacey, and her family keeps talking about how much they want to do for her, but they haven’t done jack for Lacey yet."
Laser blamed the incident on the teenager’s "lack of driving experience." She had only had her driver’s license for four weeks at the time of the accident.
Picard’s father said that while the driver has taken responsibility for the accident, the excuse that she is inexperienced is intolerable.
"That is like saying every 16-year-old that has car keys is given the keys to a bomb and we are OK with it," Picard said. "Lacey is passively receiving physical therapy and still cannot communicate. Her life is ruined and this girl only got a slap on the wrist. Giving her detention time would have driven home the point. Her father and attorney were defensive at the trial and many facts were misrepresented or left out."
Picard added that while phone records show that the teenager was not on her phone at the time of the accident, his understanding is that she admitted to a deputy that she was looking for a song on her iPod. Laser admitted that the driver was exceeding the 35 mile-per-hour speed limit by about 10 mph and was partially distracted.
"Her[the driver] and I were both crying during the trial," Picard said. "The driver’s father said that if she was given detention, it would set her back in school, but look at how far she set my daughter back. Lacey has lost her entire livelihood."
Picard expects the two families to sit down soon with a mediator and begin to discuss the restitution payments. He also wants the driver visit with his daughter in the hospital so she can see "the full impact of what has happened." Laser said the restitution will be a serious financial burden on the teenager, one that will follow her around for the rest of her life.
According to Brickey, the judge told Picard that nothing he could do, even giving the driver detention, would bring his daughter back to how she was.
Picard’s condition is continuing to slowly improve, according to Watkins.
"She was showing a lot of improvement, but then she had surgery a few weeks ago to replace a portion of her skull and it really flattened her out. She is finally beginning to improve again. She can move her right arm and blink, but does not have control over her facial muscles. She does not have any speech capabilities but can track you with her eyes," she said.
A fund has been set up in Lacey Picard’s name. For more information, visit http://loveforlacey.wordpress.com/