Safety and OSHA News

No cell phone for 2 years: Sentence for distracted driver for fatality

“I don’t think she has a right to a phone.” That’s what a judge said when he sentenced a woman to prison for a distracted driving fatality and ruled she can’t use a cell phone for two years. 

Mitzi Nelson, 23, pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge in the crash that killed Jill Byelich, a 35-year-old with two children, last September near DeWitt, MI. Police say Nelson was distracted by her cell phone when she hit Byelich who was on a bicycle, wearing reflective gear and a helmet.

Clinton County Judge Stewart McDonald handed down a multi-part sentence. Nelson will have to:

  • serve 3 to 6 months in prison
  • perform 150 hours of community service
  • speak to 20 driver’s education classes about the dangers of distracted driving
  • pay more than $15,600 in restitution and $1,500 in fines, fees and costs
  • serve two years probation, and
  • forgo owning or using a cell phone or other portable communications device during her time on probation.

Judge McDonald said he thinks owning a cell phone isn’t a right. “I think it’s a privilege,” the judge said.

In court, Jordan McDonald told Nelson he understands she is remorseful. He hugged her before she was led away to jail, according to the Lansing State Journal.

Judge McDonald acknowledged that the cell phone restriction could be challenged. However, it was Byelich’s husband, Jordan, who suggested that part of the sentence.

But Nelson’s attorney, Mike Nichols, doesn’t expect to challenge the judge’s order. “Mitzi may be just fine with that,” Nichols said.

The federal government says in 2013, 3,154 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers.

What do you think about the judge’s sentence, particularly the cell phone ban? Let us know in the comments.

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  1. jburzynski says:

    Good luck enforcing it. I think 3-6 months in prison is obscenely lenient.

  2. While the prison portion is very lenient; prison does not “reform” anyone. I like the additional requirements, it is these items that will truly drive home the consequences of her actions, having to share her poor choice and the consequence of that choice will be a deterrent going forward.

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