No Prison Sentence for Underaged Drinker

If you had drunkenly crashed into a ditch, with a car full of inebriated teenagers, substantial prison time and a lifelong criminal record wouldn’t really come as much of a surprise. But for one underaged drinker, 20-year-old Hannah M. Ramos, there appears to be another option – and lucky for her, it’s much less harsh than the alternative.

Michigan’s Holmes Youthful Trainee Act is, in essence, a second chance. A life-line for young offenders who have made a bad decision where the consequences might mean a serious felony conviction and a lifetime with a stigmatizing criminal record. It allows for a judge to dismiss certain criminal offenses committed by offenders between the ages of 17 and 20.

Which is what Bay County Circuit Judge Harry P. Gill has offered to Ramos in the wake of her very poor decision two years ago. She was the drunk driver of a car that ended up in the ditch full of her teenaged girlfriends who were also well and truly “under the influence” at the time.

Initially, Ramos pled guilty to two charges – assault with a dangerous weapon, which is a four year felony under Michigan law, and operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, which as a first offense is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 93 days in jail and fines of up to $500.

In return, the prosecution agreed not to pursue the other charges she had initially been faced with as well, namely three counts of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated causing an incapacitating injury, which is a five years felony.

However, instead of a felony and prison time, Ramos will spend four consecutive weekends in the Bay County jail, starting at 5 pm on the first Friday following the sentencing hearing. Another 200 days of jail time were deferred by the judge as well. Ramos was also sentenced to two years of probation, during which time she must stay out of trouble and not drink alcohol.

Ramos was contrite at the hearing, claiming that she understands what a bad decision it had been to drive on that particular night, and how how choice affected others negatively. She also apparently no longer drinks alcohol and explained that since the accident, she has made an effort to turn over a new leaf.

Although the judge and the prosecutor both wanted Ramos to understand the gravity of the situation, and how easily a situation like this could have resulted in a collision with another vehicle and the possible loss of lives, Ramos is very lucky indeed. She will now have an opportunity to learn from her mistakes and live her life in a safer and smarter way in the future.

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