In Georgia, a DUI can become a felony if there is an accident where someone is seriously injured or when there is a death involved. If there is a DUI where a death occurs, the intoxicated driver could face felony vehicular homicide charges in addition to felony DUI charges. The penalty for this particular offense is between three and fifteen years in prison. In addition, the person’s driver’s license will be revoked for a minimum of three years. If more than one person is killed, the penalties are increased.
Last Thursday, 26-year-old Tessa Marie Openlander pleaded guilty to the charge of driving under the influence resulting in death. She was sentenced to fifteen years in prison in Ridgeland, South Carolina.
The charges stem from an April 2019 accident. Officials say that Openlander’s blood-alcohol level was 0.15%, nearly double the legal limit when her car ran off Bellinger Road and into a ditch.
Her passenger, who was from Savannah, Georgia, was ejected from the vehicle. He was not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident.
Openlander along with another passenger suffered from minor injuries. They both were wearing a seatbelt at the time of the collision.
An officer who responded to the scene stated that Openlander was so intoxicated that she was unable to stand without assistance.
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