A Granite City man received the maximum prison sentence for causing a car wreck that killed a couple and their unborn child, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Sept. 8. Donald W. Canterbury pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 28 years in prison for killing Adam Zimmer and Lindsay Arnold-Zimmer, who was five months pregnant at the time. Law enforcement said Canterbury had a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.246, more than three times the legal limit in Missouri and Illinois, when he rear-ended the Zimmers’ car at a high speed, pushing them into oncoming traffic. He is required to serve at least 85% of his sentence, or about 23 years and 10 months.
The case attracted media attention after it was discovered that Canterbury had five prior convictions for driving under the influence of alcohol — including one in Madison County in January of this year. He was sentenced to court supervision for that most recent DUI, but according to the prosecutor in the case, he may have gotten a more severe punishment if prosecutors had realized it was not his first drunk driving conviction. His history may have influenced the decision to give him the maximum possible sentence for the charges he faced, including two counts of aggravated DUI resulting in death, four counts of aggravated DUI resulting in great bodily injury and one count of reckless homicide of an unborn child.
The prosecutor in the case used the sentencing to call for a nationwide database of driving records, which would allow law enforcement to identify problem drivers like Canterbury. There may be practical and civil rights considerations to work out before starting such a database, but as a St. Louis drunk driving accident attorney, I would support giving law enforcement such a tool. Federal statistics show that people with past drunk driving convictions are routinely around 20% of all drivers involved in fatal DUI accidents. Identifying them would allow law enforcement to revoke their driving privileges after they demonstrate that they cannot be trusted. As things stand, courts may be able to give out harsh sentences after the fact — but it would be better to prevent these terrible, unnecessary deaths in the first place.
Carey, Danis & Lowe represents victims of crashes caused by an irresponsible drunk driver, including families who have lost someone in an intoxicated driving accident. We can, and frequently do, pursue Missouri DUI accident lawsuits against drivers even if police and prosecutors are also pursuing criminal charges. Criminal charges can put irresponsible drivers in prison or take them off the road — but unfortunately, they offer only limited financial help to the victims. That can be a real problem for many families, who may lose a wage-earner’s income to injuries or death right when the hospital and repair bills begin to arrive. Our southern Illinois intoxicated driving accident lawyers can help these families press the perpetrator’s auto insurance, if any, for a fair payment — and if that doesn’t work, take them to court.
If you or someone you love was badly hurt by a drunk driver in Missouri or southern Illinois, and you’d like to discuss your legal options with an experienced attorney, the Lowe Law Firm would like to help. To set up a free, confidential evaluation of your case, please call us toll-free at 1-877-678-3400 or contact us through the Internet.