A Milwaukee County judge ordered a stronger criminal sentence for a convicted hit-and-run driver than prosecutors suggested. The judge felt the prison time and supervision extension was justifiable punishment for the repeat offender. The sentence was also designed to deter other drivers from reckless behavior.

The case stemmed from an early morning hit-and-run accident in 2010 when a pair of pedestrians was struck while crossing a Milwaukee street. A 29-year-old woman was killed in the accident. Her male companion’s pelvis and leg were shattered. Witnesses could not identify the driver who fled but told police he may have been drag racing.

A tip led police to the city impound lot, where the defendant’s car was stored after a parking violation. Damage on the Chevrolet Caprice was consistent with the pedestrian accident. Investigators discovered a victim’s DNA on the car’s molding.

The case accelerated after a man was arrested out of state for a separate offense. The arrestee agreed to testify that he was in the vehicle that hit the Wisconsin pedestrians.

Authorities filed two hit-and-run felony and two misdemeanor charges against the suspected driver. The 29-year-old defendant pled guilty and was sentenced to a five-year prison term with five years of supervision.

The judge also ordered the convicted man to pay $7,000 in restitution to the family of the woman who died. The stiff sentence was issued in part because the defendant had run into previous trouble with the law, which contributed to what the judge called a “legacy of sadness.”

Wisconsin laws permit restitution sentences in criminal cases where defendants are found guilty. Restitution orders do not prevent auto accident victims or wrongful death plaintiffs from petitioning a civil court for compensation.

A $7,000 restitution order probably would cover only a small portion of the plaintiffs’ total losses for emotional trauma and financial hardships. A jury award would likely be reduced to reflect restitution.

Source: jsonline.com, “Driver gets 5 years for fatal hit-and-run,” Lydia Mulvany, March 26, 2013