« Lots worth reading at Pardon Power during this clemency season | Main | Iowa Supreme Court deals with Graham's prohibition of juve LWOP for nonhomicide »

December 17, 2010

A mere six-month jail sentence for 19th drunk driving conviction?!?!?

As detailed in this local article, which is headlined "19th DUI gets Santa Rosa man 6-month sentence," an inclination to treat drunk drivers leniently can continue even well after a defendant has more than a dozen convictions for this dangerous behavior.  Here are the notable details (which actually highlight for me why technology rather than longer prison terms should be the focal point of reducing the dangers and harms of drunk driving):

A Santa Rosa man with 19 drunken driving convictions was spared a prison term Thursday for his latest offense, prompting an outcry from prosecutors.

William Rylan Beall, 65, whose record of drunken driving stretches back 44 years, was sentenced to six months in jail by visiting Alameda County Judge Julie Conger. But he could end up serving it in an alcohol treatment facility if bed space becomes available.

That he will be free until Jan. 21 and was not given a prison sentence provoked an angry reaction from Sonoma County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Bill Brockley. “It’s putting our community at risk. He’s proven he’s a danger and can’t conform his behavior to societal norms,” Brockley said. “He can’t stop drinking and when he drinks, he drives. He puts your family, my family, and all families at risk.”

Prosecutors had sought a two-year prison term as recommended by the county probation department.... In recommending the mid-term prison sentence, the probation department took into account Beall’s clean record for the past eight years.

Until his latest drunken driving offense in July, Beall, a real estate agent who lives in Oakmont, had stayed out of trouble since 2002. But his finances and health began to deteriorate and he relapsed, said his attorney, Steve Weiss. “He has been a strong participant in AA the last eight years,” said Weiss. “Unfortunately, he reverted to very old habits.”

“The judge focused on a number of things — the eight years he had been sober, his health and the best way to protect the community, which she felt was to keep him on probation for five years — keep him under close supervision and give him a six-month residential treatment program to sharpen his sobriety skills.”...

Beall’s record of alcohol-related driving convictions began in 1966, according to a pre-sentencing report. He was convicted of drunken driving seven times in the 1970s, five times in the 1980s, four times in the 1990s and again in 2002, prior to his most recent conviction.

Three of the convictions involved traffic collisions. In one case, he was seen running a red light at approximately 50 to 60 miles per hour. “It is extraordinarily fortunate the defendant has never seriously injured anyone or taken a life, given his disregard for the law and the well-being of others,” Deputy Probation Officer Sierra Grohl wrote in her report.

Beall was given probation six times, required to attend frequent AA meetings and comply with Antabuse drug therapy, but he continued to drink and drive. He was sent to prison for two years in 1998.

In addition to his 19 prior drunken driving convictions, there were six additional arrests that did not lead to convictions, according to the pre-sentencing report. His blood alcohol in 2002 registered .22, almost three times the level at which a person is presumed too drunk to drive.... The probation officer noted “it is plausible he truly was sober the past eight years or he would have likely appeared before the court much sooner.”

Weiss noted that early on the district attorney’s office had offered his client a 16-month jail term and with good behavior, he could have been out in half that time.  But Brockley said Beall rejected the offer and another judge refused to consider a non-prison sentence. “A person with this type of alcohol history and arrest record should be going back to state prison,” Brockley said.

Though I generally agree with the prosecutor's view here that such an extended criminal history justifies another trip to state prison, I also think this case spotlights the need to use ignition-locks and other forms of technology to try to prevent chronic offenders from ever being able to start a car with any alcohol in their system.

December 17, 2010 at 09:31 AM | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451574769e20148c6d46bfe970c

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference A mere six-month jail sentence for 19th drunk driving conviction?!?!?:

Comments

The good judge wants to "sharpen his sobriety skills" with the sentence imposed.

After a 44 year history of drunk drinking to include a staggering 19 convictions, doesn't society deserve better from its judiciary.

Posted by: mjs | Dec 17, 2010 10:53:36 AM

Geez! As a defense attorney, I understand each case is different, and each individual is unique. It is futile to judge without all the facts.
However, I have to admit, I'm kind of shocked. If I were a prosecutor, I think I would have simply submitted the transcripts of the 18 prior hearings as an argument for punishment. (What was his defense on the 11th one? What promises was he making on the 7th?)
I agree with your stand promoting technological assistance.

Posted by: mike | Dec 17, 2010 12:04:27 PM

yet these same santimonous judges have no problem whatever locking someone with a 20-30 year old SEX CHRAGE up for 10 to LIFE for forgetting to mail a postcard!

Posted by: rodsmith | Dec 17, 2010 4:06:05 PM

More like report the judge. Here is how you do it.
http://cjp.ca.gov/index.php?id=16

I just filed mine. If you care about it file yours.

Posted by: Matt | Dec 17, 2010 5:47:53 PM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB