Bobby Stovall recently was convicted of DUI for the 9th time in Texas. He was spotted weaving across several lanes, and also hitting other vehicles. When officers stopped Stovall, he showed signs of intoxication. His blood alcohol concentration was .32, while the legal limit in Texas is .08. Despite hitting other vehicles, no injuries resulted from this most recent DUI stop. When Stovall was sentenced, he became the first person to receive a life sentence for DUI where no one was injured. The court felt that Stovall was a danger to other drivers and needed to be removed from the streets permanently.
States vary in their DUI sentences. Florida makes it a third-degree felony to have three or more DUI convictions within a 10-year period. Depending upon the time between the convictions, offenders could be facing five years or more in prison. Each case will be examined separately to find the best course of action. Additionally, penalties may be enhanced if the driver has a high BAC.
With states increasing DUI punishments, special emphasis has been placed on the punishment and deterrence aspects of sentencing. States want to show that they view DUI as a serious problem that carries serious consequences. The Stovall case presents a clear example of the challenge facing states as they address the issue of repeat DUI offenders. Many repeat offenders are alcoholics and need professional help to control their drinking. By increasing prison sentences and throwing them in prison for long periods of time, repeat offenders are not getting the help they need. However, even if the offender needs help, states still need to protect citizens from unsafe drivers.
An increase in the amount of time that a DUI conviction carries could make roadways safer in the short term, but it may not be a long-term solution to the problem. In the Stovall case, he could potentially be released within five years on parole. By focusing on the punishment aspect of the sentence, the offender is not being treated for his or her illness. When released, they may be just as likely to reoffend as ever. An experienced DUI attorney can work with the court to create a sentence that would allow offenders to get the help they need while accepting the consequences of their actions.
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