After 10 DUIs, Texas Imposes the Ultimate Penalty – Life Imprisonment

Texas has had enough of Ivy Ray Eberhardt. Last April the 62-year-old man was hauled in for the twelfth time for drinking and driving. He had nine convictions, and no doubt his tenth was not a difficult one for the prosecution. Eberhardt’s blood alcohol level was .30, almost four times the legal limit for intoxication, an amount that would have made him unable to keep any kind of control of his vehicle. In fact, at that level, the symptoms are usually unconsciousness, severely depressed reflexes, difficulty of respiration – even subnormal body temperature. With that much booze in your system you shouldn’t be standing up, much less driving.

life-imprisonment-for-duiThe judge agreed. Last week he sentenced Eberhardt to life imprisonment.

Eberhardt is about the toughest example of a DUI recidivist one could imagine. He spent 300 days in a Colorado prison, and has been fined, jailed, put on probation, and has undergone counseling. He even cut off an ankle monitor so he could make a jaunt to Colorado.

And with all that, at this last arrest there were four whiskey bottles in his vehicle – three of them empty.

Still – life in prison? That’s usually a punishment reserved for murderers and others who have inflicted terrible pain and injury on others. Eberhardt does not have that kind of track record.

But one thing was clear to the judge – the defendant was a road disaster waiting to happen. You can’t ply the roads year after year without endangering yourself and others. By some miracle, Eberhardt hasn’t killed anyone yet, but he is still too dangerous to allow on the roads. And so far nothing short of life imprisonment has done the trick.

Imprisonment should be a last resort for drunk driving offenses: it is expensive for the state, and calamitous for the offender. While it keeps an impaired driver off the roads, it also tends to bring about stigma and financial hardship for families.

Nevertheless, this is probably one of those cases where nothing else could be done.

Texas has recently upped its anti-drunk driving game, having become the 25th state in the union to require ignition interlocks for all DUI offenses. The state is eager to relinquish its distinction as a leader in drunk driving fatalities. A permanent ignition interlock might be another way to go, but few can argue that Eberhardt needs to be stopped right now.