Wrist-slaps for DWI drivers can result in heavy, later price

The numbers are staggering. A Missouri man has been convicted of DWI six times, yet spent less than a total of two years behind bars for the offenses (state law says that after three convictions, a person can be sentenced to 15 years in prison). His criminal record stretches far beyond the repeated drunk driving offenses, however: he has been arrested about 150 times, including for reckless driving, operating a vehicle without a license, speeding and failure to show up in court.

The 56-year-old's latest, worst convictions came days ago after he reached a plea deal with prosecutors. He pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and fleeing the scene of a deadly pedestrian accident, avoiding a possible conviction on felony murder and assault charges. The man is responsible for the October 2012 crash that killed a four-year-old boy and injured his older brother, then just 10.

With credit for the 20 months already spent in jail on the charges, he will now spend about three and a half years in prison for the crash.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch says this case is the latest example of DWI offenders cutting deals to avoid felony drunk driving charges, enabling them to dodge lengthy stays behind bars that would prevent accidents, injuries and fatalities.

The man has been arrested 11 times for DWI.

In the fatal accident, he struck the brothers in his pick-up truck as they crossed a road. He fled the scene while the little boy died on the spot.

Police tracked him down, however, and arrested him three days later. It was by then impossible to determine if he had been intoxicated at the time of the crash.

A prosecutor said the plea deal was the best he could do given the circumstances.

The mother of the injured boys and her attorney filed a lawsuit against the man; it was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.

Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "Chronic DWI offender sentenced to 5 years in prison in Pagedale crash that killed boy, 4," Joel Currier, June 17, 2014



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