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March 28, 2009

Should we ban all repeat drunk drivers from ever driving again?

My local paper had this story about the sentencing of another repeat drunk driver guilty of killing another innocent victim.  These stories are all too common and fuel my general eagerness to get extra tough on repeat drunk drivers.  But a notable extra facet of the sentence is what prompted me to blog about this particular case:

A Columbus man was sentenced yesterday to four years in prison for a hit-and-run crash that killed a bicycle rider in 2007.  Spencer Andrews, 26, of Maxwelton Court, also is banned from driving for life, Franklin County Judge Richard S. Sheward ruled....

His attorney, Robert Krapenc, said Andrews regrets not stopping on the dark roadway after hitting Sonney. Andrews has sought counseling about the crash, Krapenc said, but was advised not to contact the Sonney family before sentencing.  "He knows he is going to spend time in prison and he's said he knows he deserves it," Krapenc told the judge.

Traci Sonney told the judge that her son wanted to be a teacher and planned to study art at the Columbus College of Art & Design.  "With his passion for life and the creativity he had, he would have been a powerful, powerful motivator," Mrs. Sonney said. "You left my son mowed down. You're never going to know what you did to my family."

She said Andrews didn't learn from his drunken-driving conviction three years ago. And she asked Sheward to send a message to other hit-and-run drivers.  But she left the courtroom in despair after she heard the sentence.  "It's not enough," she said, crying outside.

Though others can comment on whether a four-year prison sentence was enough for the defendant here, I found especially interesting that this relatively young defendant is now "banned from driving for life."  I do not think I can recall hearing of another sentence that included a lifetime driving ban, but it strikes me as a fairly sensible sentencing provision for some (perhaps all) repeat drunk drivers.

Of course, it may be hard to effectively enforce a lifetime driving ban on all repeat drunk drivers.  But it is also hard to enforce lifetime gun possession bans on all felons and to enforce broad living restrictions on all sex offenders, and yet we still continue with such restrictions because of the threats we believe are posed by felons with guns and sex offenders.  As this story reminds us, because we have good reason to worry about the threats of posed by drunk drivers to innocent lives, the challenges of enforcing lifetime driving bans on repeat drunk drivers should not alone dissuade us from considering this approach to keep the roads safe. 

March 28, 2009 at 01:09 PM | Permalink


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While not required for a second conviction I believe Alaska has such a requirement for a third DUI conviction, regardless of whether death or injury occured as a result. And if you're going to stick around the town I live in you will almost certainly get caught. It's small enough that the cops are easily able to know about the few residents who aren't allowed to drive.

I do wonder how such an issue would play out if someone moved. Do states honor such lifetime bans? I know they are supposed to on suspended or expired licence, but not sure on lifetime revokation.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Mar 28, 2009 2:57:36 PM

In Alaska, the lifetime revocation isn't absolute. After payment of a fine and many years, people can apply to get it back.

Posted by: S.cotus | Mar 28, 2009 7:00:57 PM

One-Two-Three-Dead solves all the pretextual problems mentioned.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Mar 28, 2009 7:02:02 PM

I didn't know that about Alaska and I find it very interesting. I live in a very rural state and one of the arguments has always been here is that we can't ban people from driving because we are robbing people of their livelihood. I don't know enough about the economy of Alaska to understand how driving dependent it is; but where I live you couldn't earn a living without driving a car, or it would be very difficult.

What if someone went of welfare because they couldn't get a job because they couldn't drive. Wouldn't the state in essence be paying people not to drive. Does that make any sense as a policy. I'm not sure. I understand that in theory driving is privilege not a right but I wonder about the secondary ramifications of many people not being able to drive legally, especially in rural states.

Posted by: Daniel | Mar 28, 2009 7:25:15 PM

Mr/s. Claus, you're right, but Justice Kennedy & Friends would probably find that unconstitutional.

Posted by: anonymous | Mar 28, 2009 11:43:34 PM

The Supreme Court is in out of control insurrection against the Constitution, specifically the Section granting lawmaking power to the Congress. Judicial review has no validity and represents a prolonged coup d'etat, with the forbearance of Congress. The latter gets to avoid facing important legislative question by feeding it to its dog, the Supreme Court.

If one is counting crimes, the first to hang will be the Justices and all other appellate judges who repealed a law. Their decisions have mass murdered, without trials, millions of third trimester, viable babies, protected by the Fifth Amendment. These are bloody handed traitors to the nation.

A strong executive can visit justice upon these traitors. Not likely the current one.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Mar 28, 2009 11:54:41 PM

A sad situation. Unfortunately, a vehicle does not ask you if you have a driver's license when you start it. Until that changes, whether an offender can legally drive or illegally drive is moot.

Posted by: ShellyT | Mar 29, 2009 10:16:33 AM

I am an attorney in Connecticut. Conn. Gen. Stat § 14-227a provides that the person's motor vehicle operator's license or nonresident operating privilege permanently revoked upon such third offense. For most clients that is really a fourth because CT has an Alcohol Education Program (AEP) per Conn. Gen. Stat. § 54-56g allows for no conviction for first offenders (or individuals who used AEP more than 10 years ago).

Posted by: MattB | Mar 29, 2009 7:55:22 PM

My friend Michael Sonney was the cyclist killed by Spencers Andrews. That waste of life only has 4 years in prison and his license revoked permanetly but like that matters. Mike is still gonna be dead when he gets out. And as for the permanent driving ban for Spencer, it means nothing to me. He is still physically able to drive so like a ban is really gonna stop him. All I know is that at least for the next few years he'll be locked up where he can't mow down any one else's friends or family and leave them to die alone and the family/friends broken. And as for other repeat offenders, I really don't care if they can drive anywhere. We are taught if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all... Well if you can't drive and not drink, then you shouldn't drive at all!!! Today my friend has been dead for exactly 2 years and it doesn't hurt any less. He was supposed to be 21 last year. He should be having his 22 birthday in 10 days. There are so many things that are wrong because of this. He was a wonderful person and I just want him back and that can never happen.

Posted by: Brittny | Jul 25, 2009 10:49:13 PM

Well, I think someone who has 3 or 4 DUIs under their belt should never be allowed to drive again unmonitored. But in the 21st century it's possible to allow them to drive monitored, interlock device, at least to earn a living. The argument that they get a sober person to blow for them doesn't hold water because you have random re-tests every 5 or 10 minutes when car is running. And who would be willing to ride with a drunk friend to provide sober breath when they could just do the driving? Even if the sober friend didn't have a license. Blowing for his drunk friend is felony, driving w/o license in most cases is a misdemeanor. Take their license for life and require a BAIID. Collect the revenue and public is at no risk from it. Seems like a win win for all involved.

Posted by: Tim | Mar 11, 2013 5:00:24 PM

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