After 12 DUIs, motorist finally gets sentenced to long stretch in prison

DOVER — In March 2014, a motorist was detained in Dagsboro after allegedly fleeing from a crash.

In a news release at the time, Delaware State Police said a DUI-related investigation followed, and a routine check of the driving record indicated 11 previous DUI convictions, a suspended license and improperly registered vehicle.

Approximately four months later, the driver was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison for DUI No. 12, the time suspended after eight years with no opportunity of early release.

Dover Policeman Patrolman 1st Class Caleb Rich sets up the department’s Intoxilyzer Thursday afternoon at Dover PD headquarters. (Delaware State News photo by Dave Chambers)

Dover Policeman Patrolman 1st Class Caleb Rich sets up the department’s Intoxilyzer Thursday afternoon at Dover PD headquarters. (Delaware State News photo by Dave Chambers)

The motorist also was required to complete an in-house Greentree program, followed by a year of Level 4 supervision (house arrest, electric monitoring) and entry into a residential substance abuse program.

If completed successfully, a two-year stretch of Level 3 supervision (intensive supervision) was required.

Add it all up, and the convicted motorist with 12 DUIs was required to serve at least 11 years minimum under some form of incarceration or state oversight while on a probationary status. Any violation of probation during that time could lead to the entire 15-year prison sentence being served based on the court’s determination.

The defendant was ordered to pay a $1,000 fine, and required to be monitored by a Transdermal Alcohol Device (ankle bracelet to monitor any alcohol use, which is barred).

Also, the convicted motorist’s driver’s license was automatically revoked for five years. After that, there is eligibility to seek reinstatement through the Division of Motor Vehicles, with approval pending due to meeting the state’s requirements.

Sean Lugg, the Delaware Deputy General who oversees traffic safety resource prosecutions, including DUIs, said a collective effort of entities in the legal,legislative and law enforcement realm has addressed the issues that are “a problem for everyone,” whether intoxicated behind the wheel or traveling in traffic with someone who is.

However, he said, “There’s no life sentence for DUI. At some point in time everyone will have an opportunity (to request) getting their license back.”

Delaware laws have been evolving into stiffer sentencing and more a treatment-based approached from the mid- to late-2000s, Mr. Lugg said.

“This is a problem and issue grappled with at many levels to address the very real safety risk on our highways,” he said.

“The collective effort of legislative change, treatment and enforcement have created the framework to address the criminal aspect and sentencing, as well as the treatment side.”

Any driver with a felony third DUI charge or more is ordered not to drive as a condition of bail, with the return of privileges based on how the case plays out in the legal system.

With a first and second DUI charge, a driver’s license is taken and a paper issued with the right to seek a due process appointment with a Division of Motor Vehicles hearing officer. If that hearing is not requested within 15 days, the license is revoked.

A first-offense DUI conviction comes with a 10-year window to avoid a second offense. If an offense occurs more than 10 years after the first, it is considered a first offense from a legal perspective. Accumulate a third offense, and the first two are included no matter when they were committed.

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