More than five years after fleeing the country upon her conviction for a fatal Alabama DUI crash, a longtime fugitive was discovered in Thailand and has since been returned to U.S. soil. She was deported, according to the U.S. Marshals Service, escorted on a plane to California and is awaiting extradition to Alabama.
Now 36, the woman was with her 2-month-old son at the time of her arrest in February by police in Phuket. Authorities had reportedly been watching her for a month.
According to reports, the woman was 26 at the time of the fatal crash. Authorities say she was drunk when she was driving alone I-459 in Hoover shortly after midnight one morning in 2004. The victim, a truck driver, was parked in the right emergency lane, near a bridge, and was examining his tires. Defendant reportedly struck the truck first and then the man.
Defendant was arrested the same day for DUI, posted $1,000 bond and was released. However a year later, she was indicted on a charge of vehicular homicide. She was arrested again and required to pay a $10,000 bond prior to release. She was slated for trial in early 2007, but instead pleaded guilty. Her attorney pressed for probation, but the court instead handed down a sentence of five years.
Our Birmingham DUI defense lawyers know that Alabama Code section 32-5A-192, which covers the definition and penalties for homicide by vehicle, requires between one and five years of imprisonment. Criminally negligent homicide (often charged in DUI-related fatal crashes), meanwhile, is codified in 13A-6-4 and carries a minimum mandatory sentence of one year and one day and a maximum penalty of up to 10 years in prison.
In this case, trial court allowed defendant to post $50,000 bond so she could be free pending her appeal. However, rather than wait for the outcome of that appeal, defendant fled the country. In 2010, she was officially declared a fugitive.
Last year, USA Today completed an in-depth report on the fact that many police agencies are failing to track down fugitives who simply cross state borders – even felony fugitives. Reporters detailed how across the U.S., law enforcement agencies and prosecutors were allowing some 3,000 individuals accused of serious crimes – such as rape, robbery and even murder – to evade justice simply by traveling across state lines.
Prosecutors and police blame limited resources, high costs and red tape.
In analyzing the FBI database used to follow developments on outstanding warrants, police indicated in 187,000 cases, they would not spend the time or expenses to retrieve a fugitive from another state. In another 80,000 cases, authorities indicated they would only be willing to extradite a person from a neighboring state. In some of the highest-crime cities in the country – Little Rock, Atlanta and Philadelphia – authorities told the FBI they would not pursue 9 out of 10 of their felony suspects across state lines.
But fugitives from Alabama should beware: This is not a get-out-of-jail-free card. While the U.S. average for refusal to extradite was 16 percent, in Alabama it’s 0 percent. That’s as of May 2013. That means that of the 352 outstanding warrants authorized by the Alabama Department of Corrections, authorities have not given up on extradition of a single case. Of the 1,377 outstanding warrants issued by the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, not a single one is subject to non-extradition.
What this means is that if you are facing serious charges in Alabama, authorities from Alabama will look for you, and they will bring you back once you are find. In most cases, you will face additional charges.
The best way to secure a reduced sentenced or charges is to hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer.