Welcome to my Crime and Justice blog! I am a 19 year old criminal justice student at the University of Winnipeg. I advocate for prisoners' rights, human rights, equality and criminal justice/prison system reforms.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Appeal court should reduce father's 6 year sentence for impaired driving

It’s a chore to find any sympathy whatsoever for Winnipegger Hugo Ruizfuentes and his bid to get his prison sentence for being drunk and killing 63-year-old Elaine Stoller cut in half.
He has a right to appeal of course.
Still it’s mighty irritating that the appeal court has to waste hours of its time hearing such a request. The man was drunk, crashed into Stoller’s car and killed her. He received a stiff sentence. He was sent to prison. We applaud the judge for finally giving us a semblance of justice because it doesn’t happen often.
Ruizfuentes, 42, was convicted last year, several months after the fatal accident and Judge Mary Kate Harvie sentenced him to six years in prison — one year longer than what was recommended by prosecutors.
He argued Friday before the Manitoba Court of Appeal that Harvie placed too much emphasis on his prior driving record and too little on his clean criminal record to make her decision.
“He is a good man who did a horrible thing,” his lawyer Mike Cook said.
He urged the court of appeal to reduce his sentence to as little as three years, minus double credit for nine months served. Why don’t we just buy him a house and make a bronze bust of him too? Absolutely ridiculous. He took an innocent woman’s life by being reckless behind the wheel.
Breaks are out of the question.
We’ll take his lawyer’s word for it that he’s a good man who made a mistake and we can’t take away his right to appeal.
But this will be a major travesty of justice and slap to victims’ families everywhere if he wins this appeal. At the time of the fatal crash at Waverley Street and Grant Avenue in late 2008, Ruizfuentes had 11 prior convictions under the Highway Traffic Act, including multiple convictions for running red lights and stop signs, and driving without a licence. Prior to his vehicle striking Stoller’s vehicle, he had blown through three red lights.
He’s a criminal what ever way you slice it.
That idea seems lost on Ruizfuentes and his lawyer.
“In my view the time has come to stop treating impaired drivers like they are not criminals,” Crown attorney Chris Vanderhooft told the appeal court.
There’s an old adage that police and prosecutors have used for years. Drunk drivers are murderers — their weapons being their vehicles. That’s why police devote so many resources to spot checks and RIDE teams — to get drunk drivers off the road.
The Crown is right on. Drunk drivers are criminals. They deserve hard time.
Ruizfuentes should stay right where he is.
For the entire six years.

This man should NOT serve his entire 6 years in prison! If we do not allow him parole or stat release, he would be released with no conditions, supervision, assistance or support, which would significantly increase his chances of re-offending and decrease his chances of successful reintegration. In my opinion, 6 years is too harsh of a sentence. Longer prison sentences accomplish nothing but revenge. That is not justice. The Judge should have placed more emphasis on the mitigating factors in this case, considering this man has a family and children, showed remorse, admitted responsibility, and has offered to speak to young drivers about the dangers of impaired driving. He also has no prior criminal record. 3 years in prison would be much more appropriate. 


  1. I am Hugos' wife of 17 years and it sure feels good to hear someone say " A LONG PRISON SENTENCE DOES NOTHING" living with what he has done is and always will be a life long sentence. He has plans to make others hear his story and hopefully stop somone from drinking and driving. We could not afford a good lawyer and he did not represent him well at all.The cameras did not pick up any speeding or red lights for example.He was NOT charged for them but the news likes to mention them ....HE PLEAD GUILTY but 3 red lights no no no ....the witness who was chasing him down the road had to of blown through them too? He knows he deserves time but fairness did not happen. At this point our children are being punished too.

  2. Nice to meet you. I am glad you agree with my perspective and opinion that longer sentences are no more effective than shorter sentences. I have sympathy for your family's situation of losing a husband/father to imprisonment. That lack of contact and support must be very difficult. I am glad to hear that he wishes to speak to others about his story. I have a desire to support and assist the marginalized individuals in society, who may not be able to afford the top lawyers in Winnipeg, such as yourself. It is definitely unfair. I completely agree with you, that you and your children are also punished with your husband's prison sentence, and that is horrible. I sincerely hope that his sentence is reduced by the Appeal Court, for your husband's and your family's sake.

    I wish you and your family the best and I have have sympathy for your situation.