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March 01, 2012 11:07 am

EDITORIAL: Let’s get repeat DUI offenders off the highways

Written by Ilene Olson

People convicted of driving drunk four or more times per year could face more time in prison if House Bill 88 passes the Wyoming Senate in the next week.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Sam Krone of Cody, would make a fourth or subsequent DUI conviction within 10 years a felony, punishable by up to seven years in prison and/or a fine of as much as $10,000.

Currently, people convicted of four or more DUIs can face up to two years in jail, a $10,000 fine or both.

Convictions in Wyoming or other states would be counted in the total.

The measure already passed the House, and it was approved on Monday by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

According to testimony in the committee, 28 people in Wyoming were convicted of a fourth or subsequent DUI in 2011.

As reported by the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, Krone told the committee that a woman in this area crashed into a vehicle carrying a young family. She was on her 11th DUI offense. The family she hit suffered injuries and $500,000 of medical bills.

The woman recently was released from prison and drove drunk again, he said.

Committee Chairman Sen. Drew Perkins, R-Casper, said one man in his area was released from the penitentiary after serving 20 months for his fifth DUI. In three months, he got his sixth DUI. While the disposition for the sixth offense was pending, he got a seventh.

“There are some of these offenders who simply don’t want treatment; don’t want to change. They just need to be taken off the streets,” Krone told the committee. “This gives the authority to the district court to do that.”

Krone said there are incentive treatment programs at the women’s and men’s prisons in Wyoming, but a two-year sentence doesn’t provide enough time for offenders to take part, considering they often spend eight or nine months at county jails first.

When someone chooses to drink and drive repeatedly, the costs to society and to individuals are too great to tolerate. House Bill 88, if passed by the Senate, would put them behind bars long enough, one would hope, to consider making the changes they need to live sober and more productive lives.

After four chances — all of which put the public in danger — it’s not likely they’re going to help themselves without some outside pressure. And, it’s highly likely that they drove impaired many more times without getting caught.

One would hope that, for some at least, the threat of spending seven years of their lives in jail would prompt them to seek help on their own before they face prison time.

We urge the Senate to pass House Bill 88 to make our highways safer and encourage repeat offenders to get the help they need.

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