Here we go again, facing up to the problem of the hardcore drunk driver. This time, it’s through a fascinating and disturbing tale of a sort we’ve all heard before. It continues to amaze – in the sense of ‘how does this kind of thing keep happening?’
This particular offender’s first offense came way back in 1992. He was 18. The latest (until this recent incident) was in 2014. He spent two years of a four year sentence in prison, then was released. And once again… well, you know the rest.
To me, such stories illustrate what often happens when someone with very chronic alcoholism is placed in what’s called forced remission. Meaning he’s locked up and presumably can’t get at alcohol. His behavior may have changed, but only because he had no choice. His thinking processes remained the same.
This time around, he was charged with aggravated DWI, driving while license revoked, failure to maintain a lane, making an improper turn, and, just for the heck of it I guess, not wearing his darned seat belt.
In the bed of his truck, the officer found crushed beer cans. In the rear seat, a 30-pack of beer. There was a strong odor of alcohol coming from the vehicle, leading to a sobriety test. That did not go well, either.
I suppose he’ll end up back in prison, to finish out his original sentence and whatever else the judge decides. The newspaper story, by the way, drew just one reader response: a complaint that if a gun had been involved, comments would no doubt have been plentiful.
Maybe the writer saw that as somehow unfair to gun-wielders.
Anyway, it’s clear from this and other examples that for many offenders, simple incarceration will never be enough. Which doesn’t mean they shouldn’t go to jail or prison. It does suggest that for a long term solution to chronic recidivist drunk driving, we may want to look elsewhere.
Unfortunately, large sections of the voting public seem to think incarceration works fine. “At least while he’s in jail we know he won’t drive drunk,” you’ll hear someone say. But eventually he’ll be released. “All right, then just keep him in jail. Permanently.”
I doubt many criminal codes would allow that.
By the way, our state is well known for its drunk driving woes, but also ranks among national leaders in other serious alcohol-related problems. Such as alcohol-related disease. The CDC claims our fatality rates were double the national average (2011-2015).