Are Sentencing Guidelines Tough Enough?

6:21 PM, Feb 15, 2013   |    comments
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Billy Roger Bailey, the man who admitted he ignored a school bus stop arm and hit and killed 11-year-old Hasani Wesley, could serve between five and seventeen months in prison.

It doesn't sound like much time. North Carolina has thousands of laws on the books and lawmakers told WFMY News 2 it often takes a tragedy like this to change those laws.

Representative Alma Adams pointed out the recent push to change gun control laws after the Sandy Hook shootings as a prime example.

"We have thousands and thousands of laws. Every time we go into session, we make new laws. Those laws will stay on the books and they're not reviewed until someone sees the need to do that." Rep. Adams said. "Our best watchdogs are really the citizens whom we represent."

Rep. Adams said laws also change when someone discovers an unintended loophole, or, if enough people complain to lawmakers. However, Guilford County Assistant District Attorney Howard Neumann said sentencing guidelines often come down to money.

"If we'd like everybody who commits a certain offense to go to jail for a certain amount of time and all the taxpayers are behind that, then they need to be willing to reach in their pockets and provide prison space for all those people to go. If you want to send everybody to prison, you need to be willing to pay for those prisons," Neumann said.

That's why Neumann says the state typically relies on mathematical formulas to set sentencing guidelines. Essentially, they look at how much prison space is available and how many crimes are committed. Then, they decide which crimes are serious and dangerous enough to warrant putting people in jail.

Judges and prosecutors also take intent into account when it comes to sentencing. They will pursue different charges if someone did something willfully versus accidentally.

Read: Sixth Grader Hit By SUV At His Bus Stop Dies

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