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New law aids prosecution of repeat DUI offenders

A new Wyoming law that eliminated suspected drunk drivers’ right to refuse a blood test has already been used to aid prosecution of several repeat offenders in Park County.

Three repeat offenders recently were sentenced to prison time, with help from the revised law, said Deputy Park County Attorney Sam Krone.

Bob A. Wutzke, 59, of Cody, is serving 20 to 24 months in prison for his fourth drunk driving offense since 2001 and eighth overall; Dusty Boggs, 30, of Hardin, Mont., has been ordered to serve a 19- to 22-month prison sentence for driving under the influence for a sixth time in the last five years; 30-year-old Cody resident Alfred L. Clark, meanwhile, is serving 16 to 18 months for a fourth offense in seven years.

All three men refused to take breath tests after being arrested in Cody, but police got warrants for blood samples under the new Wyoming law that took effect in July. Previously, a driver could simply refuse to take a breath test.

The samples obtained by Cody police all showed blood alcohol content levels at least twice the legal limit of .08 percent, and “that was strong evidence in moving forward to resolve the cases,” said Krone, who prosecuted all three cases.

Each of the three men agreed to plead guilty to a felony count of driving under the influence of alcohol.

An individual’s first three offenses for driving under the influence in a 10-year period are misdemeanors. A first offense typically results in one night in jail. A second offense carries a minimum seven-day sentence, a substance abuse assessment and a year-long requirement to drive only vehicles with ignition interlock devices. A third DUI in a decade carries a minimum of 30 days in jail, plus two years of interlock devices. Driving impaired for a fourth — or any subsequent — time in a 10-year period jumps to a felony, punishable by up to two years in prison and interlock devices for at least five years. Those penalties don’t include the likely fines, probation and license suspensions.

Clark indicated he was aware of the increased penalties when he was arrested on July 2 — a day after the new law eliminating the right to refuse a test took effect.

“During the transport (to the jail), Clark pleaded with me to not charge him with DUI because it would be his fourth in 10 years,” wrote Cody Police Officer Josh Van Auken in charging documents. “I informed Clark that he would be charged with driving under the influence.”

Clark’s last conviction came from driving drunk in Powell a year ago; he had been Tasered after running from police on foot.

Wutzke was arrested on July 31 in Cody after witnesses reported seeing him in a vehicle that had just crashed into a post on West Yellowstone Avenue; Cody police found Wutzke in a nearby bed and breakfast with vomit on his shirt and face and appeared to be drunk, court records say. He was arrested.

When Boggs stepped out of his car after an Aug. 16 traffic stop in Cody, he was ending a cell phone call, Cody Police Officer Scott Burlingame wrote in court documents.

“I’m going back to jail, I gotta go,” Boggs was quoted as saying.

A portable breath test administered at the scene showed Boggs with a .12 blood alcohol content level, and he was indeed arrested. He refused to take a more accurate test at the jail, leading police to seek a blood sample.

While some people suspected of drunk driving have threatened they wouldn’t submit to a court-ordered blood draw, Krone said he hasn’t heard of any Park County cases where blood was drawn by force.

Krone, who is also a Republican member of the state House of Representatives, says he plans to introduce legislation that would more than triple the maximum prison time for a fourth offense. He would like to see the offense carry a penalty of up to seven years in prison.

“I think that the two-year maximum penalty is woefully insufficient,” Krone said. Some repeat offenders, he said, would rather do two years of prison time than go through an intensive treatment program that can take a year.

“We have to have the ability to just take those folks off the street for a longer period than two years,” Krone said.

In a different recently-resolved repeat DUI case that didn’t involve the new law, Douglas Langdon of Powell was sentenced to nine months in the Park County jail for driving drunk on Oct. 19, 2010 in Powell. It was his fourth offense in the last 10 years, and fifth overall, state court records say. The jail time will be followed by three years of unsupervised probation.

At his Oct. 19 sentencing — exactly one year from the day of his arrest — Langdon, 58, said he has been sober since that night and “I’ve seen what effect it (alcohol) has on my life.”

“I don’t want to be considered a habitual criminal or threat to the community for something I know I can change,” Langdon told District Court Judge Steven Cranfill.

“I’m certainly not going to lecture you about alcohol; you know what you’re facing,” Cranfill said, adding that he appreciated Langdon’s candor.

Langdon may be allowed to participate in the detention center’s work release program.

Another Powell man, Mikel D. Coble, 36, was charged recently with driving under the influence for a fourth time in 10 years after a Nov. 8 arrest on Panther Boulevard, near Buckingham Place. His case was transferred to Park County District Court.

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2 comments

  • posted by bill jivelekas

    November 27, 2011 10:13 am

    DUI is not a good thing, but I have seen it as a 'revenue enhancement' project for some law entity's. granted it is the discretion of the officer, but it seems to come down harder on the individual and in some cases ---excessively so. .08 is basically2 beers, perhaps 3 beers in 3hrs. time. Yes , dui is not right yet it seems that these harsher laws have not stopped nor perhaps will ever stop this from completely happening. What is the recomendation, suggestion of 'we the people' to do?

  • posted by Salty Dawg

    November 26, 2011 9:13 am

    Wyoming needs an equal law against the thousands of idiots who text and yap on the phone while driving. Powell is getting so that it is hazardous to your health to get around anymore because of these morons.If anyone causes wreck while on a cell phone,the penalty needs to be loss of driving privileges for life in any state,plus an instant felony.This goes for cops also.

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