Notorious California DUI Case Highlights The Problem of Repeat DUIs

Sometimes it takes a shocking news story to draw attention to a persistent law enforcement problem. That is the case with stubborn repeat DUI offenders, who will continue to drink and drive no matter what cost they — or others — have paid.

Robert Schiro
Robert Schiro

Five years ago a 25-year-old college student named Ashley Jackson was bicycling with her fiancé in Saratoga, California when she was hit by a BMW that proceeded to speed away. Jackson suffered brain damage and debilitating injuries. It took some months to locate and arrest the driver, 70-year-old Robert Schiro.

Schiro was sentenced to three years in San Quentin. He served half that, but had his license revoked. Apparently, neither the horror he wreaked nor the legal restriction mattered to Schiro. He got back behind the wheel, and now has been charged with new crimes — DUI and hit-and-run causing property damage, as well as driving without a license.

windshieldAccording to news reports, an intoxicated Schiro ignored pleas to take a cab from a Saratoga restaurant and drove his Escalade home instead, ramming a car on the way out. He managed to run over his own wrought-iron gate when he arrived home. Confronted by police, he claimed his girlfriend had been driving.

His former victim Ashley Jackson wants – no surprise – life imprisonment for Schiro. Whether California courts will agree is not yet known.

Recognizing the problem that repeat offenders pose, states have devised programs to protect the public. When Vermont revokes your license for drunk driving, it can be reinstated only with a pledge of total abstinence from drugs or alcohol for three years. If you violate those terms, you are required to have an ignition interlock in your vehicle permanently. An ignition interlock prevents a vehicle from starting when the driver has been drinking.

Wisconsin, a state infamous for its leniency in the area of drunk driving, is beginning to tackle the problem with special laws for repeat offenders. But those laws are for offenders with seven convictions; Schiro would not have qualifed, despite his infamous record.

Repeat DUI offenders are in a class by themselves. There exist driver education programs and awareness campaigns to inform the public of the dangers of impaired driving, and many people take heed. Fines and jail terms are enough to deter many one-time offenders from repeating their crime. But the only thing that would possibly keep the Robert Schiros of the world from drinking and driving — short of imprisonment — would be a well-supervised ignition interlock requirement. If a car will not start because the driver has alcohol on his breath, the public is safe for the moment.

License suspension don’t work, and even prison doesn’t seem to do the trick. If these offenders have access to a car, they will drive it.