I saw a headline the other day that said that a Texas man received a life sentence for his third DWI. However, if you listen to the above clip, it is reported that it was the man’s eighth DWI, not his third. Four of the previous DWIs were also felonies.
In any event, it is a stunning sentence for a drunk driving case, especially since in this case it was a victimless crime — the driver was pulled over for minor traffic violations. The only extenuating circumstances were his arrest history and that he had a very high blood alcohol level (0.44). On the other hand, he did nothing else that would be considered an aggravating circumstance such causing an accident, being combative to the officers or attempting to flee.
What would happen to a person who commits a similar act in Illinois? A sixth or greater DUI is a Class X felony — the highest level of felony except for first degree murder. Class X felonies are punishable from six to thirty years — but that time can be extended if a person has committed a previous Class X, and a person can get a life sentence if they have had two prior Class X offenses — so in other words, DUI number 8 can result in a life sentence in Illinois too — even if the person did not cause an accident, or actually drive a motor vehicle.
I did not hear the defendant’s age in the clip, but he looks no older than his mid 40s. I fail to see what is gained by keeping him under lock and key when he is in his 80s.
In my opinion, a sentence in the range of 8 to 12 years is a much fairer and appropriate sentence: it will keep the defendant away from alcohol for a long period of time, cost him his job, deprive of his family and take away a significant chunk of his life. During that time, the person will hopefully get alcohol treatment and exit prison a rehabilitated person. I see no reason to treat this person the same as a cold-blooded murderer.
Various studies find that the cost to incarcerate a prisoner range from $27,000 to over $47,000 per year. And cost to incarcerate elderly prisoners are in the range of $60,000 to $70,000. Does it make sense for taxpayers to pay to keep a drunk driver in prison forty, fifty or sixty years after his last offense?
What do you think?