Teen sentenced to 10 years of church attendance
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.
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?