We often discuss the long-standing question in criminal law of the right balance between offenses and sanctions. A sanction needs to generally achieve restoration for victims and deter others in an ideal world. That does not appear to be the case in Paoli, Indiana where a historic bridge from 1880 collapsed after a track driver violated weight and access signs by driving her truck over the bridge. The sanction? A possible $135 for disregarding a posted sign. That’s it. In the meantime, the bridge will have to be replaced and traffic halted for weeks or months due to her incredibly reckless and thoughtless act. I am assuming that the trucking company can be sued for the damage to the bridge.
News reports indicate that the driver was 23-year-old Mary Lambright of Fredericksburg, Indiana who was driving with her 17-year-old cousin. She was reportedly trying to park at a Walmart nearby.
The bridge clearly bars trucks and limits weight to 6 tons. The driver took a semi-trailer filed bottles of water over the bridge — a total weight of 35 tons or roughly 600 percent over the limit. The pictures linked below also show that she had to have been moving as a considerable rate of speed at the time to peal back the top of the truck.
Just a $135 fine. This would seem a public safety question that warrants more significant sanctions, including possible criminal penalties. Looking at the bridge at the link below, it is hard to believe that anyone would think that a truck could make it over structure.
What do you think the sanction should be in such a case? Should there be a criminal element to the punishment?