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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Drunken driver causes stress, grief for family in wreck

Janet Hudson  Photo by Katie B. Martinez/The Collegiant
Janet Hudson Photo by Katie B. Martinez/The Collegiant

By Katie B. Martinez/reporter

(Part two in a four-part series on victims’ rights.)

Janet Hudson  Photo by Katie B. Martinez/The Collegiant
Janet Hudson Photo by Katie B. Martinez/The Collegiant

Becoming a crime victim is often sudden and unexpected and can leave an individual with a helpless, out-of-control feeling.

One NE Campus student experienced this first hand when her family’s vehicle was struck head-on by a drunken driver last year.

KB Hudson, an honor student and mother of two small children, was driving home after a family gathering with her mother, aunt and cousin when they were struck.

“ It was just like the Volks-wagen commercials: one second you are smiling and laughing with your family, and the next second you are bleeding and crying and trying to understand what has happened to you,” she said.

The four women were traveling down a two-lane country highway when a car suddenly swerved into the oncoming lane and collided with their car, causing the vehicle to spin, flip and fall into a steep 20-foot embankment. Both vehicles were demolished.

The four women survived, suffering mostly minor injuries, but they all agree that the most difficult injuries came in emotional and stress-related problems, which persisted long after the trauma.

A beloved family pet, a five-pound Chihuahua named Little Girl, who was riding in the backseat, was killed. The family was overcome with grief.

“ After the wreck, I went through a period of depression and guilt. I just kept thinking that if I had done this or that differently, we would not have been on that road at that particular time, and my family would not have been hurt,” she said.

After the crash the family learned that the drunken driver, whose blood alcohol was 10 times the legal limit, was awaiting trial on a previous DUI charge and was driving an uninsured vehicle.

“ We were all accruing medical bills; the car was totaled, and we were at a loss as far as what, if any, options were available to us,” she said.

Within a week, each of the women was contacted by Terri Stout, a victims’ rights advocate from the district attorney’s office.

The advocates are available to assist victims in understanding the many processes that follow an unwitting descent into the criminal justice system.

“ Our victims’ rights advocate was great. In the beginning she called just to see how we were holding up,” Hudson said.

“ It’s hard sometimes for your loved ones to understand what you’re going through after a traumatic event like that, but she knew … she understood,” she said.

Stout sent the women information on MADD support groups and forms to apply for reparations from the Texas Crime Victims’ Compensation fund.

“ The victims’ rights advocate became a crucial ally for us as we tried to negotiate our way through the system,” Hudson said. “She assisted us with paperwork, explained everything that was happening and kept us up to date on the status of the criminal case.”

As the trial date neared, the victims were summoned to a meeting with the district attorney and the advocate to discuss sentencing options. It was at that time, the women learned more about the driver who had struck them one year earlier.

The driver, a 28-year-old female, had four small children and was facing a prison term of up to eight years.

“ We went into that office that day full of anger, and we came out with a huge sense of sadness. When we learned that the woman had four children, our heart just sank,” Janet Hudson, KB’s mother, said.

The victims decided to push for leniency for the woman and supported a plan that would place the woman in a rehabilitation facility for nine months before being released on intensive-supervision probation.

Stout further assisted the women by conveying their wishes to the district attorney and providing them with the support they needed at yet another emotional time in their ordeal.

“ The entire experience was an emotional roller coaster; it was something that was always there, weighing on our hearts,” Janet said.

Before anything could be settled upon, the young woman violated the terms of her pre-trial release when she was caught driving on a suspended license and refused to submit to sobriety testing.

“ After that, the DA was no longer willing to consider leniency. There was nothing else we could do,” she said.

In the end, the woman accepted a plea agreement that sentenced her to four years in a state prison.

“ It was heartbreaking to see this young girl accept her sentence in tears, to think about what horrors she might face in state prison,” Janet said. “But, on the other hand, you have to think that this might just be the wake-up call that saves her life or somebody else’s.”

In the weeks leading up to the sentencing, Stout encouraged the women to prepare a victim’s impact statement, a letter to the defendant to be read aloud in the courtroom detailing the effects the crime has had on the victim.

As Janet read her statement, she could hardly fight back the tears when she addressed the young woman who had turned all of their lives upside down.

“ My mom implored the woman to reach out for help, to try and take this opportunity to straighten out her life so she could be there for her children in the future. She told her that she forgave her for what she had done and that she would pray for her,” she said.

During the hearing the advocate was at the victims’ side, just as she had been through each step of the 14-month process.

When the young woman was set for transfer to state prison, the advocate notified the four women by mail and provided them with her inmate number. The case was entered into the VINE system, which notifies victims of upcoming parole hearings or release.

Every day the lives of crime victims are disrupted, and the victims struggle with issues that were imposed upon them. The actual crime is only the beginning of a long saga.

Laws have always been in place to protect the rights of defendants, but the rights of victims have not always been clearly defined until the Crime Victims’ Compensation Act was adopted.

The crime victims’ assistance program can help people to get back on their feet and take control of their lives.

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