A judge has sentenced a man to 14 years behind bars following his sixth conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol. The substantial penalty reflects harsher sentencing guidelines for people who have been convicted of similar crimes in the past. This is a common practice in courts in Missouri and across the country, but has come under scrutiny recently as questions arise about the effectiveness of this method in actually preventing activities like drunk driving.
The reasoning behind the harsher sentencing laws is part punishment for repeated misdeeds and part deterrent. However, in the case of an offense like a DWI, repeat offenders are more often struggling with substance abuse than intentionally undertaking an illegal activity.
The man in this case has three previous convictions for driving under the influence, two for aggravated DUI, and another conviction for leaving an accident scene. In the most recent incident the man apparently drove a van into a nearby creek and caused minor injuries to his passenger. He admitted later that he was intoxicated at the time of the accident.
His conduct doesn't seem to describe someone acting with reckless disregard for legal consequences or person safety, but more likely the actions of someone who would benefit from a mandatory alcohol treatment program along with other penalties designed to solve the problem of his repeated drunk driving.
What do you think - are these types of penalties for a DWI fair? Or should repeat DWI offenders have the opportunity to seek treatment before serving extended prison sentences?
Source: The Associated Press, "6th DUI earns Illinois man 14 years in prison," July 18, 2012.