A Houston man was sentenced to life in prison after his ninth drunk driving conviction, raising questions as to how the law deals with habitual drunken drivers.
Judge Kathleen Hamilton sentenced Donald Middleton of Houston to life in prison after he was charged with his ninth drunk driving offense. A sentence so harsh is atypical of most standalone drunk driving offenses, but since Middleton had been convicted for the same offense eight times prior, he had been characterized as a habitual offender.
Laws governing habitual drunken driving offenders vary from state to state. While states like Ohio, Arizona, and California have no laws specifically addressing repeat DUI offenders, states like Alabama, Colorado, and Florida do.
According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, Ohio drunk driving laws include things like:
- .17 BAC is the threshold at which point an individual would incur a penalty for “high BAC”
- Administrative license suspension on 1st offense for 90 days
- Limited driving privileges during suspension after 15 days
- Ignition interlock devices are discretionary
- OVIs can incur vehicle impoundment and/or restricted plates
- There are open container laws and alcohol exclusion laws limiting treatment
- There are no repeat offender laws
Not all states have repeat offender laws for drunken drivers, but statistically, repeat offenders are a problem. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, one out of every three people arrested for suspicion of drunk driving have offended before.
It also seems as if no two repeat offender laws are the same. In New York, an individual wouldn’t face a repeat offender penalty until their third aggravated charge of DUI, at which point they could receive a $10k fine and seven years in prison. In Arkansas, the repeat offender law states that a driver loses their license upon fourth DUI offense within a five-year period.
Most of the clients The Koffel Law Firm represents have very limited or no previous contact with the criminal courts for a singular reason: we are interested in catching these individuals before their offending becomes habitual. Because of the type of client we represent, we often favor treatment in lieu of conviction, diversion programs, probation, and other non-prison outcomes.
We also have one of the best DUI/OVI defense practices in the state of Ohio. With drunken driving offenses, being quick, connected, and reputable are the keys to success. Our small team of lawyers is always on call – evenings, weekends, and even holidays. We are in the Franklin County Courthouse and various Mayor’s Courts of Central Ohio day in and day out.
We know the court personnel, we know the prosecutors, and we know how to effectively present our client’s cases to achieve the most favorable result. If you or a loved one was arrested for their first or second drunk driving offense, we may be able to help. Get in touch with The Koffel Law Firm today to learn more.