NJ top court keeps deadly hit-run driver out of prison
TRENTON — A woman who mowed down a teenage boy in 2016 and left him for dead will keep her freedom after the state's Supreme Court this week upheld a probationary Drug Court sentence that kept her out of prison.
The state Supreme Court on Monday rejected the appeal by the Camden County Prosecutor's Office, which had sought a prison term against Susan Hyland.
Hyland was driving on a suspended license in March 2016 when she ran over Quason “Qua” Turner as he was walking home on Route 130 in Pennsauken. The impact left the teen nearly decapitated, officials said.
Hyland was an admitted drug addict and had a record six convictions in Superior Court, eleven convictions in Municipal Court and 39 license suspensions.
Prosecutors were unable to prove that Hyland had been under the influence because too much time had passed between the crash and when she was arrested the following day in Camden. She pleaded guilty to second- and third-degree charges, including leaving a scene of a fatal accident.
Over the objections of prosecutors, the Burlington County woman was sentenced to five years of probation in Drug Court. She faces up to 20 years in prison, however, if she violates probation.
Prosecutors argued that Hyland's record precluded her from Drug Court. But the sentencing judge did not agree that Hyland would be a danger to the community if admitted to the alternative program and reasoned that she was "likely to respond affirmatively to Drug Court probation."
The Supreme Court on Monday said it did not find the sentence to be illegal.
"Here, for example, the judge applied defendant’s unique characteristics and circumstances — namely, that she was diagnosed with five serious substance abuse disorders and had a relatively non-violent and remote criminal history — and determined that she was amenable to treatment and not a risk to the community,"
the court said in its unanimous decision. "Even if the court abused its discretion “by making a clear error in judgment,” [...] it did not impose an illegal sentence."
Hyland was represented by the Public Defender's Office.
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.