• Rhode Island judge bans teen driver for life

    Date: 03.28.12 | by Judge Tom.

    Lyle Topa lived in Charlestown, Rhode Island. He was 17 years-old and went to Chariho Regional High School. In October, 2011 he left a party with three friends where there was alcohol. Although his driver’s license had been suspended, Topa was the driver. He got into a street race with another car, exceeded the speed limit by 20 miles per hour and crashed into a tree. All four teens were hospitalized and one 16 year-old lay in a coma for weeks.

    Topa pleaded guilty to several charges including speeding and the judge dropped lesser charges of driving without a seatbelt, curfew, driving with too many passengers, failure to maintain control of the vehicle and possession of alcohol. Before this incident, the Rhode Island legislature took up the issue of teen drivers, passing laws that carried 90-day suspensions for first-time speeders and up to three years for drag racing.

    Lyle Topa

    Topa’s disregard of earlier sanctions came to an end in March, 2012 at his sentencing. Judge William Gulietta revoked Topa’s license for the rest of his life. At the hearing, he commented “I’ve had it. The time has come for a change in our attitude towards our young people driving, and I hope this is the first step in accomplishing that goal.” Recognizing the penalty “was the most strict, most drastic penalty this court can order” Judge Gulietta acknowledged that Rhode Island’s roads are “littered with broken dreams and broken futures.”

    The judge’s order is effective only in Rhode Island. It is possible for Topa to move out of state and apply for a driver’s license there. Let’s hope he grows up and becomes a responsible driver before he’s back on the road.

    What do you think of this penalty? Was the judge too harsh or do you think drastic measures were called for considering Topa’s actions and that there could have been several deaths from the accident? This is a guy who, obviously, doesn’t care about the law or court orders – he’s going to do what he wants when he wants. Let’s hope he doesn’t get back behind the wheel anytime soon.

    Take a look at the video below from a news story shortly after the accident. One look at the car and the tree says it all – these teens were very fortunate to survive the crash.


    Judge Tom

    This post was written by Judge Tom. Judge Tom is the founder and moderator of AsktheJudge.info. He is a retired juvenile judge and spent 23 years on the bench. He has written several books for lawyers and judges as well as teens and parents including the recently published 'Teen Cyberbullying Investigated' (Free Spirit Publishing). When he's not answering teens' questions, Judge Tom can be found hiking, traveling and reading.

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