Amy Locane, who performed in 13 episodes of the popular TV series “Melrose Place” and who has appeared in several films, was arrested for vehicular manslaughter after a fatal 2010 car crash in New Jersey. The indictment charging her did not specifically mention alcohol intoxication, but a prosecution witness testified that she was likely at around three times the legal limit and speeding at about 53 mph in a 35 mph zone just before the crash.
According to the Associated Press, Locane’s defense said that the actor rear-ended another car at a traffic light. That car chased her and honked at her, which distracted her. That led to the crash that killed a 60-year-old woman and seriously injured her husband.
Locane was initially charged with the first-degree crime of aggravated manslaughter. The jury convicted her of second-degree vehicular manslaughter, which has a sentencing range of between five and 10 years in prison. She was also convicted of assault by auto and other crimes. Prosecutors sought seven years.
At her 2013 sentencing, however, the judge downgraded her conviction to a third-degree offense and then sentenced her to the lowest possible sentence in the range for that offense: three years. She served two and a half years and was released in 2015.
The short sentence provoked outrage and prompted an appeal. In 2016, an appeals court ordered the trial judge to legally justify his decision to downgrade Locane’s conviction and to re-sentence her as appropriate.
Last year, the trial judge imposed the same sentence as before. That prompted another appeal.
“The trial judge’s legal analysis was not significantly different the second time he sentenced defendant than it was on the first,” wrote the three-judge appellate panel.
The judges went on to say that the record provided no justification for downgrading Locane’s conviction from second to third degree. They therefore vacated that downgrade.
The trial judge has now been asked to resentence Locane to a sentence appropriate to a second-degree vehicular manslaughter conviction. Assuming that sentence exceeds two and a half years behind bars, Locane will be required to return to prison.
Although this case took place in another state, it is interesting because these proceedings are unusual. While prosecutors are able to appeal sentences they believe are too low, we don’t often hear about it happening. The fact that the case involves a celebrity may have motivated the prosecutor to send a message to others that vehicular manslaughter will never be taken lightly.
If you have been arrested for DUI, vehicular manslaughter or similar offense in Tennessee, you need to protect your rights. Contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible after your arrest.