NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — A woman who struck two children with her car in a North Nashville neighborhood will be required to serve the rest of her sentence in prison following a decision by the Tennessee Supreme Court on Friday.
In 2020, Ebony Robinson pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide by intoxication, aggravated assault, resisting arrest and driving without a license after she was caught on video reversing her car at “an unusually high speed” and hitting two children who were riding their bikes nearby.
Both children were under the age of 10. While one of the children survived, the other passed away from his injuries that evening at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, according to the Metro Nashville Police Department.
Not only was Robinson on her cell phone at the time, but officers said they immediately noticed the smell of alcohol on her breath after they arrived on scene. When they searched her car, police found a Styrofoam cup that they said, “smelled like tequila.”
In addition to having a blood alcohol content over the legal limit, a toxicology report revealed Robinson had tested positive for a psychoactive amount of marijuana. Officers also learned Robinson did not have a driver’s license or insurance.
After being indicted by a grand jury on Nov. 4, 2020, Robinson pleaded guilty to all charges without an agreement on her sentence, according to court documents authored by Chief Justice Roger A. Page detailing the Tennessee Supreme Court’s decision.
The trial court sentenced Robinson to 10 years for vehicular homicide, four years for aggravated assault, six months for resisting arrest, and six months for driving without a license.
After the sentencing hearing, the court placed Robinson on probation for the vehicular homicide and aggravated assault offenses and ordered the sentences to run concurrently. She was also required, for three years, to serve one week in jail during each child’s birthday as well as the week of Christmas.
However, the State appealed, challenging Robinson’s sentence for vehicular homicide by intoxication by arguing that under a 2017 amendment to the probation eligibility statute, Robinson was not eligible for probation.
The 2017 amendment to the probation eligibility statute, Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-35-303, prohibits defendants who are convicted of vehicular homicide by intoxication from receiving any form of probation.
Afterward, the Court of Criminal Appeals reversed the trial court’s grant of probation and ordered Robinson to serve her sentence. Robinson appealed, sending the case to the Supreme Court, which filed its final opinion on Friday after reviewing the statutes.
According to the Tennessee Supreme Court, the language of the vehicular homicide by intoxication statute mandates that offenders serve a minimum of 48 hours in prison before they are eligible for release on probation.
The Supreme Court also noted that the language of the probation eligibility statute does in fact prohibit people convicted of vehicular homicide by intoxication from receiving any form of probation, including probationary sentences of split or periodic confinement.
The Court determined the two statutes can be reasonably read together without conflict, leading to a unanimous opinion affirming the decision of the Court of Criminal Appeals and ordering Robinson to serve the rest of her sentence for vehicular homicide by intoxication in confinement.