The most serious alcohol-related criminal charges involve injuries and the loss of life. A Louisiana defendant found guilty of drunk driving, even a first-time DUI offense, can face life-long consequences for causing a fatal accident.

Three people and an unborn child died in a December 2013 crash in Duson. The victims were passengers in an SUV. They included a father of three boys, a 14-year-old girl and a 16-year-old female, who was pregnant.

Police said the SUV was struck by a driver whose blood alcohol content level was 0.18 percent, more than double the legal limit. The SUV driver, the brother of the male passenger, survived. The 58-year-old man charged with causing the fatality also was unhurt.

The defendant had no prior DUI arrests or convictions. Authorities charged the man with triple counts of vehicular homicide, reckless operation, negligent injuring, third-degree feticide and driving left of center. Last month, the defendant pleaded guilty to the homicide charges and a single count of vehicular injury.

An updated KLFY News 10 report stated the defendant was sentenced to a 20-year prison term, with parole possible in nine years. The outcome was very different than it could have been. The defendant might have had to spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Under Louisiana’s vehicular homicide law, a convicted defendant must spend a minimum of five but not more than 30 years in prison. For defendants with BAC levels of 0.15 percent or more, the possibility of parole is denied for at least for five years. When two or more fatalities are involved, a judge can issue separate sentences and order terms to be served consecutively.

Reduced charges and penalties are negotiations involving the defendant, prosecutor and criminal defense attorney. With a plea agreement, a defendant still may pay a very high price, but nothing as costly as penalties the state originally sought.

Source: The Advertiser, “Mother works to cope after drunk driver killed husband” Dec. 04, 2014