Teen sentenced to 10 years of church attendance as part of DUI conviction

By davestate · Nov 30, 2012 · Updated Nov 30, 2012 · ·
  1. davestate
    MUSKOGEE - Attending church on Sunday for 10 years was one of the conditions a Muskogee County judge placed on a teenager whose sentence in a manslaughter case was deferred this week for 10 years.

    Defense attorney Donn Baker said that although the church requirement is unusual, it is not something he intends to challenge.

    "My client goes to church every Sunday," Baker said. "That isn't going to be a problem for him. We certainly want the probation for him."

    The defendant, Tyler Alred, 17, was behind the wheel of a Chevrolet pickup about 4 a.m. Dec. 3 when he crashed into a tree on a county road east of Muskogee. His friend and passenger John Luke Dum, 16, of Muskogee died at the scene.

    Alred, a high school and welding school student, admitted to Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers that he had been drinking, records show.

    Although not legally drunk - he was given two breath tests, which, at 0.06 and 0.07, fell below the legal 0.08 blood-alcohol threshold for legal drunkenness - he was underage and, as a result, considered to be driving under the influence of alcohol.

    Alred was charged with manslaughter as a youthful offender. He pleaded guilty in August, with no plea deal with prosecutors to govern his punishment.

    Muskogee County District Judge Mike Norman - who determined the conditions to accompany Alred's deferred sentence - could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

    Left to monitor Alred's church attendance is the District Attorney's Office. District Attorney Larry Moore also was not available to comment Wednesday.

    Assistant District Attorney Jim Carnagey said the judge has required church attendance with other defendants in the past.

    Randall Coyne, a professor of law at the University of Oklahoma, said the church-attendance condition probably wouldn't withstand a legal challenge but that someone would have to file such a challenge.

    "It raises legal issues because of (the separation of) church and state," he said.

    Coyne said defense lawyers in other cases have successfully challenged orders that their clients attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings because of AA's spiritual component.

    "This young man may feel like this is a just punishment as far as he's concerned," he said.

    The problem arises in how to enforce it and what should be done if he were to fail to attend church, Coyne said.

    Alred's sentencing Tuesday was emotional.

    Carnagey said Alred - with his minister in the courtroom - addressed Dum's family members, who were sitting in the front row of the gallery.

    Baker said Alred "started crying, and (Dum's) father got up and went over to him and they hugged, and both of them cried wrenching tears for several minutes."

    Carnagey said one of Dum's sisters also told the judge that there was no sense in ruining two lives by sending Alred to prison.

    Alred testified that he has been shunned since the crash, Baker said.

    "He understands the gravity and the hurt and wishes he could take it back," he said. "This is something he'll have to live with the rest of his life.

    "He told (Dum's) family (that) every day and every hour he regretted his decision to drink and drive."

    In addition to going to church and the standard rules governing deferred sentences, Norman imposed other conditions for Alred to avoid prison.

    The teenager must wear an ankle bracelet that monitors alcohol consumption; attend victim-impact panels and speak at events about the consequences of drinking and driving; graduate from high school and welding school; attend counselling; and undergo drug and alcohol assessments.

    Susan Hylton


    I wonder about the constitutionality of a judge choosing a Bible-based punishment, does this not violate some part of the separation of church and state, or imposing a religion on someone? Not that I would rather have the jail time as this would IMO be preferable to me, but even still

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  1. Basoodler
    Doesn't that define church as a punishment for manslaughter? I feel bad for the kid, but don't get the punishment. I get that its a non enforceable symbolic gesture instead of just letting the kid go.

    But he set a strange precedence in doing so. Also couldn't the kid fight the drunk driving charges, testing under the legal limit? or plead down to underage consumption. I know another kid died and he probably felt like he deserved whatever they threw at him.

    I don't know.. what a strange precedence

    is he saying that church makes people commit less crime? Or church will help him quit drinking? I have never known either of those to be true.
    It displays a very closed minded view of the world IMHO.
  2. source
    wow this is an odd decision as religion should never really come into it.

    The arguments could be that either the church is some form of punishment - equal to the hell of being locked up for years (my thoughts of sunday school lol) or that yes, the church is some kind of rehabilitation for his criminal ways.... but then right at the start it states he attends church every sunday anyway.

    It's definitely odd to enforce a particular religion on someone (or attendance of) instead of the standard rehab/counselling/drug intervention programs.

    Sad story though.
  3. Unknown632
    This type of punishment shouldn't be allowed. Whatever happened to separation of church and state? No ones ever heard of someone being sentenced to 10 years of mosque attendance. This is the type of thing about the USA that pisses me off. You should not be able to make someone go to a religious institution. It's clear there is no freedom of religion. Of course no one will challenge the ruling cause its a much better punishment however its still forced conversion. The punishment there given for refusing to convert (fighting the sentence) is jail.
  4. rawbeer
    As absurd as this all is I find it equally absurd that this kid is being forced to attend substance abuse classes because he drank like 2 beers or something. That he made what is hopefully the mistake of his life after having done so does not change the fact that he drank a very inconsequential amount of alcohol. Honestly I can see a punishment like 10 years of church going uncontested because even as much as I hate going to church I'll take it over jail or AA anyday. At least you can just sit there and not participate. And honestly, are they going to keep tabs on this kid every sunday for a decade?

    He should insist on going to Catholic church, so that his punishment for drinking a tiny amount of alcohol will be...drinking a tiny amount of alcohol.

    Fuckin' Muskogee. Merle Haggerd would be proud.
  5. curlysue
    When I was under the age of 21 I was pulled over and had an open container in the car. Luckily, the cop was friends with my dad and didn't charge me for the open container, or drinking and driving. He told me that if you're under the age of 21, if you have a BAC of .008 or higher, you're considered drunk.

    I don't think that attending church service is a proper punishment, for any crime. I'm sure the kid feels terrible, he clearly showed remorse, and he will have to live with the guilt for the rest of his life. They could have simply gave him a prison or jail sentence and say "time served" due to the emotional impact that this has had on him.
  6. Ellisdeee
    I think this is interesting. The story doesn't say what church the judge defined he has to go to. That in of itself is...pretty interesting when you think about it. Obscure and interesting...with a dash of fucked up. Churches of many types house various religions. Wonder which one he is going to pick, or if there was more strict ruling in that area not in the story.

    It is like being sentenced to go to school. Pretty vague - in what sense? When it comes to legal repercussions they are usually pretty explicit. It seems weird to give a nearly loop-hole-ish sentence out. Unless of course, the story didn't explain it all.
  7. runnerupbeautyqueen
    I can almost promise that this kid will be living in guilt the rest of his life. Because of that I think the church punishment is better than any other punishment (like jail), except maybe some form of therapy/counseling. He apparently already goes to church anyway.

    I feel really bad for him. His friend is dead and he knows it's his fault. I am definitely sympathetic.
  8. hookedonem
    Why does religion still exist, it`s 2012 for crying out loud.
    Religion is like a cult.
    Ten years of going to church. it sounds bizarre!
  9. source
    Oh God, take your comment to the God Thread in SFA. What a statement!! Just cause its 2012 there should be no religion?
    I agree that some would think of it as a cult but come on! Its been thought of as the basis of life since the beginning of time and something like that is not just going to fade away unnoticed... especially only 2012 years since the birth of Christ.

  10. Basoodler
    ^ some people require religion as a means to or incentive to leading a life within the bounds of acceptable society.

    What I mean is, there are fucked up people who benefit from the structure of the church. The values or rules in all of them are just a reflection of the lessons learned in the past. I mean if you take the god portion out and observe the structure. All of the bullshit has been added by people ..

    Its hard to say the foundation is a bad thing.. I mean the 10 commandments are no oppressive and entirely reasonable.. they just are basic rules on how to live together without causing too much bullshit..

    Anyway the more I think about this case. The less I feel this will impact

    For one, its probably a small community (not entirely sure). The judge probably knows the family, and the kid.. its Oklahoma , so church is not only spiritual , but the main source of community. The judge probably sees it as a way to keep in contact to see progress.. it also insures a support group to help him deal with the tragedy.

    I guess .. maybe
  11. source
    Well said Basoodler.

    Plus, not only does religion give people a structure to live their lives by but it also gives people afraid of death that belief that there is somehow 'life after death'. It gives people hope that they will see loved ones again etc although this does depend on the religion ofcourse!

    Just imagine if there were no religions in any country of the world and everyone believed in science and the fact that when you're gone, you're gone... would be utter chaos I imagine!!
  12. radiometer
    If the guy was interested in fighting it, I'm sure the ACLU would love to take this one on.
  13. Basoodler
    its a rural town in the south west.. really this applies to all of rural America .. if the ACLU rolled in there to defend the kids atheist views in the court of law.. they would be strung up by their necks from the trees as satanist.

    Its at least been my experience that when people find out that I am an atheist the first line of questions tend to some how involve Satanism or my reasons to hate god. I think its generally assumed that if a person is "good" then they will also be a believer.. its amazing how attached some people are to that line of thinking... you have to keep your lack of faith a secret like a gay man who has keeps a traditional family . Its kind of sad.

    The last time I wasn't in a relationship. A little more than a year ago, I am in my early/mid 30's. I figured that women would be more mature...the first date religion never came up.. I don't think any of them were an example of good Christian morals on the first date.. hell one was pissed that we didn't fuck... the 2nd date church came up.. if I admitted my athiest views that was the last date 100% of the time.. so I started saying that I just didn't go to church..same thing just less specific .. everything was great.. what is funny is every woman I went on several dates with always had an eloquent description of their denomination, church etc., I never knew one that attended church regularly.. hell most have not gone in years.. but they still judge atheists ;)
  14. MrG
    *raises hand*

    Question: What if the kid comes out as gay and gets kicked out of the church?

    Many religious organisation ostracise and demonise certain people, it would be highly likely that his redneck church wouldn't tolerate a declaration of homosexuality by one of its congregation. My thinking is that the judge would most likely follow the church's stance on the matter considering he thinks it appropriate to include mandatory attendance in the sentencing.

    If the judge is setting a precedence, albeit a dangerous one that is legally unenforceable and contravenes the separation of church and state, it would only be a matter of time before he came across a person who he sentenced to church attendance who did not conform to 'requirements'.

    What would that then mean for the application of and adherence to the original sentencing?

    Then your imagination doesn't actually understand that Atheism removes all theistic contradiction, fear and confusion, as well as church-sponsored discrimination and hatred. Everything makes sense about why bad things happen to good people and vice-versa, it's all cause-and-effect. Plus, what the hell would we be having wars about if there were no longer the constant clash of theism-inspired 'cultural values'?

    Life this life as if it were your last. /offtopicrant
  15. Docta
    This is certainly a strange punishment, it was my understanding that The Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution afforded protection against cruel and unusual punishments, strange days.
  16. SpatialReason
    Welcome to my neck of the woods folks. Welcome... to my neck of the woods. *sighs*

    I think this is harsh for the fact that he is young and made a mistake, and he is going to have to live with this mistake. That is punishment enough. If this was a 50 year old man that was prolifically drinking and had nothing to live for, I'd love to see him sentenced to the rest of his life in a church community rather than being left at home alone to drink and then drive somewhere or to be locked up to rot. There are people who genuinely need a community, love, and something to live for and feel good about to kick their awful ways. Genuinely, some people could live a better life with planned activities. If this was handed to more desperate situations and the church made the man feel important and gave him important functions, it'd probably make the person at least try to do better, and he'd have 100+ more people to tell him not to do the wrong thing and potentially 1-2 of them would check. This is far better than sailing someone up the creek for a life lost where its shaming enough and painful enough to deal with.

    For a young kid though, this is out of hand. He can easily turn his ways around, and his lesson has been learned by knowing a person was killed. Yet I can see where the sentiment lies with the judge's initial thoughts. He made a terrible mistake.

    In the end: the person fits the punishment. Not the punishment fits the person.

    Yet from what I am to understand, this is a judge's creative way of saying "you are free to go, but try to stay on the righteous path." Of course he has to fulfill his end of the bargain, but I think after a year or two, no one is checking. Redacted: So I just read he had a manslaughter charge. This is a situation of "worst case scenario." The kid has lost a life along side his mistakes and managed to live. He is already punished.

    Besides, I can tell you, most people in Muskogee are church-going. This is already default per his lifestyle. He is going to be fine. The judge essentially let him go and figuratively said "if you don't hug your momma every night, I will arrest you." It is just a loose fitting sentence that means nothing in the long run. You guys are reading too far into it. It was basically just to make this kid gain a perspective that he can choose to practice what is being preached, or he can end up like the rest of the locals around here: eat, sleep, hunt, make babies, and drink.

    All I can really say here is that one life has been spared and one life has been lost. It is better than turning him into a penned up lost soul.

    On a side note:

    None of you do live where I live. It is bad out here. Drinking and driving is bad and people find excuses for it. I have lost one friend's life due to him being killed. I have had two others injured on their own doing. I have had one injured at the hand of another.

    It is serious around here. About every few months, when driving home late at night from my friend's house, I have to call Oklahoma Highway Patrol to get a severe drunk pulled over traveling to Indian nations. These guys get severely wasted, and take up two lanes of the highway, the side shoulders, and the dirt on the side shoulders. I am not an asshole, but there are some people that can't control their vehicles and be any bit intoxicated it seems (or they are massively intoxicated and made a terrible choice). I have a "three fuck up" rule before I make the call. If the person rides the center lines for longer than 3 seconds, that's a strike. Get into the dirt, that is a strike. Swerve excessively between lanes, that is a strike.

    I am tired of people being killed out here because of it. At least if I drink, I try to keep it to a bare minimum during an instance where I have to drive. If I do pass my comfort level, I will sit there and make damn well sure I can pilot my vehicle by giving an hour or two to sit outside, have a cigar, drink some water, eat some food, and talk on the phone. I sober up and become a safe individual enough to feel secure that I will make it home without being a nuisance or a police issue. I don't care if it takes that long. I will not let my actions hurt others. Some people just don't get that though.

    There is a lot of problems around here though. We have no public transportation except in Tulsa proper. This is 2 bus lines... and those are for the people who already lost their license.
    Also underage drinking is massive around here. When I went to high school, I never drank except when I stole one light beer off of my dad every now and then (had to keep it low so he didn't know lol). Everyone else would go to ragers and drink until their livers were shot. This was bad, and those kids I knew still do it until this day.

    Now you have a little background on Oklahoma and why they are trying to get creative on this. They don't learn from jail any more. They just use it to sober up so they can help their liver out a bit...
  17. reef88
    Whenever I'm a passenger and a drunk guy is driving, I put the freaking seat-belt on, it's common sense.
  18. ianzombie
    Common sense would be not being a passenger in a car that a drunk guy is driving.
  19. SpatialReason
    No joke! You may be the safer alternative than someone who is sickishly drunk. There are people that can be amazing drivers after a few drinks, but that does not put them above losing their car/license from the drunks in the car, the smell, and him getting the breath test. Even though I drive a fancy German car that I lose my mind if someone else drives... I still let this girl I fell for take me home after a night of heavy liquor, MXE, and kratom on my own. Of course, she didn't know how bad off I really was, but she knew I was well outside of the realm of "safe driver." I was probably going to get myself killed, and she took me back to her place. :)

    See... being the drunk passenger can be a victory!

    I have seen this happen exactly like this: severely drunk girl as passenger gives police warrant to do sobriety test on driver. The driver fails despite being a safe driver who got pulled over for accidentally speeding... mainly because he was going to get laid... this person will never live this incident down...
  20. Nosferatus
    Did somebody say unconstitutional? This type of furtive union of church and state will only continue if people, like our young coward here, fail to challenge such clearly illegal motions.
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