Aggravating Factors in Fatal I-85 Wrong Way Crash

On July 19, 2015, it is alleged that Chandler Kania, 20, driving while impaired, drove the wrong way on Interstate 85 in Orange County, NC, subsequently causing an accident that killed three people. As a result of the crash, Kania has been charged with 2nd degree murder, three counts of felony death by motor vehicle, one count of felony serious injury by motor vehicle, driving while impaired, driving the wrong way on an interstate, careless and reckless driving, driving after consuming alcohol as a minor, possession of alcohol by a minor, obtaining alcohol with a fake driver’s license, and having an open container in a vehicle.

It is alleged that Kania was drinking at two different bars, and used a fake ID to purchase alcohol. Up to five different people tried to stop him from driving, resulting in a physical altercation. His blood alcohol content was a 0.17, more than twice the legal limit for someone over the age of 21, but being that Kania was under 21, no alcohol is acceptable in the blood. Marijuana was also found in his system.

The choices this young man made and his lapses in judgement throughout that night highlight the effects of alcohol when consumed in an irresponsible manner, regardless of the age of the person that is imbibing. The results of Kania’s mistakes are horrific and traumatic to everyone involved and the State is looking to take advantage of every opportunity to punish him to the fullest extent possible, as evidenced by the regular addition of charges as the case has progressed. In addition to charges, the State is identifying aggravating factors that can be used for sentencing purposes to procure the harshest sentence possible.

In this case, the aggravating and grossly aggravating factors that could be offered to try to get a harsher punishment will include:

  • Serious injury or death caused by the defendant’s impaired driving
  • Blood alcohol content of 0.15 or more at the relevant time of driving
  • Resisted the deterrence of others to commit offense
  • Especially reckless or dangerous driving
  • Negligent driving that led to a reportable accident

There is no question that if convicted, Chandler Kania will be spending a lot of time behind bars. Upon reading the comments from the public on the news stories related to this case, people would like to see him locked up forever. Should there be consequences for his actions? Absolutely. Has he ruined people’s lives? In the most horrific way. But let’s remember that he is a 20 year old kid that made a really stupid mistake with tremendous impact to others. A life behind bars will not rehabilitate him. It will not undo his actions. And it won’t bring back the loved ones that have been taken away too soon.

Should he serve some prison time? If you believe in the prison system, yes. But there are more constructive and rehabilitative consequences that can also be applied. Treatment, community service and involvement, alcohol monitoring, intensive probation, restorative justice, to name a few.

This viewpoint may be unpopular for some, or even many, but we need to look at both the individual case as well as the bigger picture of criminal case penalties. The United States represents 5% of the world population and 25% of the world’s incarcerated. We’re doing something wrong.

Damon Chetson

Damon Chetson is a Board Certified Specialist in State and Federal Criminal Law. He represents people charged with serious and minor offenses in Raleigh, Wake County, and the Eastern District of North Carolina. Call (919) 352-9411.