CONCORD — Three years after her son was killed in a deadly crash, Beth Shaw watched Gov. Chris Sununu signal a regulation that can lengthen jail sentences for repeat drunk drivers who severely injure or kill one other particular person.
The Tyler Shaw Regulation, named for the 20-year-old Harmony resident who died in April 2018, permits judges to offer longer jail sentences to drunk drivers convicted of negligent murder who’ve earlier convictions for driving whereas intoxicated. Underneath the brand new regulation, drivers with one earlier DWI conviction who trigger a crash that kills or severely injures one other particular person can now get 10 to twenty years in jail; these with two or extra can obtain a 15- to 30-year sentence.
“It’s one of many hardest issues it’s important to do as governor, to listen to the tales of what occurred, of the place the system failed and the way it may very well be higher,” Sununu mentioned earlier than signing the regulation. He praised Shaw for telling her son’s story and testifying in help of the regulation. “We might not be signing this invoice with out you,” he mentioned.
In 2019, Joseph Leonard Jr., the driving force who killed Tyler Shaw, was sentenced to 6 to 12 years in New Hampshire State Jail for felony expenses of negligent murder and aggravated driving whereas intoxicated. The crash marked Leonard’s third DWI arrest, after two earlier convictions.
“Tyler was our first-born son. He was 20 years previous with a vivid future forward of him when he was tragically killed by a drunk driver,” Shaw mentioned earlier than Sununu signed the invoice. “As I made my approach by means of the legal justice system, I discovered firsthand how damaged it’s. I couldn’t stroll away with out making an attempt to make a change to honor Tyler and all of the households who’ve misplaced family members to drunk driving.”
Beth Shaw determined to push for laws that allowed for harsher penalties quickly after her son’s demise as she turned annoyed by the sentence that Leonard might face. Initially, legal professionals negotiating his plea deal really helpful a five-year sentence, which Decide Richard McNamara prolonged to 6 years after listening to testimony from Tyler Shaw’s household and associates. That sentence will be lowered if Leonard completes a substance abuse program.
“It was one thing that I knew I wished to do from shortly after he was killed,” she mentioned. “I used to be horrified by how it appears that evidently the system works for the legal and never for the sufferer.”
Leonard’s sentence additionally included a 10-year license suspension and the set up of an interlock ignition lock that can require him to breathe into the system earlier than he can function a automobile.
Earlier than the crash that killed Shaw, Leonard’s automobile already had a mandated ignition lock. When his system registered the next blood alcohol content material studying, its use was prolonged for an additional six months. Then the state determined he might have it eliminated — simply six months earlier than the crash that killed Tyler Shaw, Beth Shaw mentioned.
Former state Sen. Dan Feltes, a Democrat, sponsored the primary model of the invoice at Beth Shaw’s request in January 2020. Noticing that the Senate model was put aside final summer season as a result of pandemic, Rep. Daryl Abbas, a Salem Republican who chairs the Home Felony Justice and Public Security Committee, filed the invoice this yr.
Abbas mentioned he remembered Shaw’s passionate testimony throughout the authentic invoice’s listening to and wished to fill this hole in sentencing regulation. “I type of picked up the ball that was simply sitting round,” he mentioned. “I give her all of the credit score. She actually deserves that greater than anybody else.”
Though it’s troublesome to estimate precisely how usually this regulation can be utilized, repeat drunk driving is an issue in New Hampshire. Between October 11, 2017, when the New Hampshire Division of Motor Automobiles up to date its record-keeping system, and Might 11, 2021, the DMV listed 24 individuals with three or extra DWIs. Of these people, seven individuals had no less than 4 convictions.
In line with 2018 research from the Nationwide Freeway Security Visitors Administration, drivers in deadly crashes with blood alcohol content material at or above the authorized restrict had been 4.5 instances extra more likely to have prior convictions for driving whereas impaired, in comparison with sober drivers in deadly crashes.
The fiscal word hooked up to the invoice didn’t measure a exact price for counties or the state, since “there isn’t a technique to find out what number of expenses can be introduced” on account of its adoption, however the word included the common price for incarcerating a person in New Hampshire: $47,691 a yr.
For Beth Shaw, longer sentences for drivers like Leonard make sense given the years of life that her son misplaced.
“I feel rehabilitation has its place. I feel it may well work for people. However penalties and being in jail for taking the lifetime of an individual additionally has worth. And we appear to lose sight of that,” she mentioned.
Some research point out that extra jail time could not stop drunk driving. A 32-year study from College of Florida researchers printed in 2007 confirmed that states that imposed obligatory jail time for drunk driving didn’t see a major drop in alcohol-involved deadly crashes in consequence.
However Abbas mentioned the regulation was price passing as an try to discourage crime.
“It’s not in regards to the research,” he mentioned. “It’s in regards to the philosophy about why you’ve gotten a penalty for a criminal offense within the first place.”
He hopes that drivers on their first offense will obtain training in regards to the harsher penalties this regulation allows and suppose twice earlier than getting on the street whereas intoxicated once more.
“I don’t know that you simply’ll ever stop drunk driving,” Shaw mentioned. She hopes that the regulation will save lives, however she mentioned its fundamental function is guaranteeing that drunk drivers pay the next worth for killing or severely injuring one other particular person.
“If I can use Tyler’s story, to deliver that consciousness, then that’s what I’ll do. And it’s not a lot how the system failed Tyler, it’s bringing consciousness to drunk driving, and the way it shatters lives. Our household will all the time be incomplete,” she mentioned. “Day by day, I get up, and he’s my first thought, and I grieve him over again.”
Shaw isn’t completed advocating for harsher penalties for impaired drivers. She wish to see longer driver’s license suspensions that don’t issue into consideration the years that somebody has served in jail, in addition to the reversal of bail reform legal guidelines.
“It’s vital for me to attempt to save one other mother from going by means of this,” Shaw mentioned. “If I can save one particular person from dwelling this, I feel that honors Tyler and that honors his legacy. As a result of in life he was a protector of his associates, he would do something for anyone and actually valued defending the individuals he beloved.”
“If I can take this and keep it up his legacy of defending individuals, I feel it’s a approach for me to pay tribute to him.”