• Teen sentenced to 10 years of church attendance

    Date: 12.07.12 | by Judge Tom.

    You read that right. According to everything you already know and what you’ve read on AsktheJudge.info, is this possible? Well, it may not withstand a challenge based on the First Amendment freedom of religion but, unless appealed, mandatory church attendance stands as a probation term for a teenager in Oklahoma.

    When Tyler Alred was 16 years old, he was driving with his friend John Luke Dum who was also 16. Tyler had been drinking before taking the wheel of his pickup truck. When he crashed into a tree around 4:00 a.m. in December, 2011, Dum was ejected and died on impact. In August, 2012, Tyler pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter.

    Tyler Alred

    At sentencing in December, 2012, Tyler was granted a ten-year deferred sentence. That means if he follows all probation terms to the letter during his ten-year sentence, the charge will be removed from his record. The judge who handled Tyler’s case based his decision on Tyler’s age and clean criminal and school records. After watching the victim’s family and Tyler in court at sentencing (Tyler and the victim’s father hugged) the judge commented that “At that moment, it sure became a reality to me that I would sentence this boy to church” to help set him on the right path.

    Prior to handing down the sentence, the victim’s family and Tyler’s lawyer agreed with what the judge had in mind. He must also attend counseling, wear a monitoring bracelet and attend church weekly – a church of his own choosing. He must also graduate from high school. Had Dum’s family or Tyler’s attorney opposed the church probation term, it most likely wouldn’t have been imposed. If the judge was determined and included weekly church attendance in the face of legal objections by Tyler and counsel, it wouldn’t stand up on appeal due to the protections provided by the First Amendment. So, as long as everyone agrees and no objections are filed, Tyler is expected to comply.

    One concern may be if Tyler attends for awhile and then decides to stop going to church. His probation officer may file a violation and bring Tyler back to court to face possible jail time. Then, the church term may be challenged as unconstitutional even though he initially agreed to it.

    What do you think of Tyler’s sentence? Can you benefit from being forced to do something that ordinarily you wouldn’t do? Is this a good resolution in view of the victim’s family supporting the judge’s sentence?

    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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    1 Comment subscribe to these comments.

    • william the creator
      Sat, 05 Jan 2013 at 07:28

      This is the most outrageous thing I have ever read. It is directly against the first amendment. This is like jailing someone for not going to church. This jude who condemned him to church is really screwed up! And forcing someone to go to church will only mess them up even more. Attending church is a waste of your life. There is no God or heaven or hell. And what ever happened to liberty? If you think about it you will realize that every aspect of our lives is controlled by the government. Resist the new world order! Do not let 1984 become a reality!