Lyle Topa won’t be behind the wheel of a car any time soon.
After wrecking his car into a tree last October, the 17-year-old Rhode Island native was sentenced to the most severe driving penalty his state could impose: a lifetime ban from having a driver’s license.
The ruling came down from Chief Magistrate William Guglietta last week, who said in regards to the strict sentence: “I’ve had it. The time has come for a change in the attitude towards our young people driving.”
Topa pleaded no contest to several charges, included speeding, which resulted in him crashing a car with two passengers into a tree on Oct. 23. The accident left one passenger in a coma for weeks.
Topa had allegedly been at a high school party where alcohol was consumed and was drag racing with another driver on the night of the accident.
“Saying ‘You lost your license for life,’ sure it sends a strong message, but so was what we did,” state Rep. Bradford Hill said to the Boston Herald.
Hill proposed a 2007 bill that can give Rhode Island teen motorists harsh penalties, such as 90-day suspensions for first-time speeders and up to three years for drag racing.
But some lawmakers say Guglietta’s ruling goes too far.
“The kid might mature and actually be a responsible driver,” state Sen. Robert Hedlund said. “I don’t know how you can take it away from a kid that age forever. What’s he going to do … bike for the rest of his life?”
All may not be lost for Topa. Guglietta said the teen could ask the court to reinstate his license.
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