Probation for 6th Colorado DUI: A Slap in Victims’ Faces

repeat drunk drivers need real punishmentWe take for granted that certain people who break the same law again and again will be punished more severely when they are caught.  Sometimes punishments aren’t what we expect, but judges have a more complex set of factors to consider. Still, every once in a while, a case comes along that seems way off the mark.

Doyle Carmack was arrested in March for DUI. His blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was found to be .235, nearly three times the legal limit for intoxication and a level at which safe driving is utterly impossible.  Carmack had three prior misdemeanor DUI convictions, and two felony DUI convictions, the latter of which got him three years in prison.

The fate of this six-time loser might surprise you. An Arapahoe judge gave Carmack 5 years’ probation and 75 hours of community service.

This might be a good time to review the purposes of a prison sentence:

  • Deterring both the criminal and others from committing the same crime, and
  • Delivering punishment for the sake of the crime committed – society’s retribution for having broken the law

It’s clear from the nature of the offender’s history that this non-sentence does neither. And that’s bad for two reasons:

  • Drunk driving recidivism is a serious problem. It’s bound up in alcohol abuse and dependency problems, and it rarely goes away on its own. Determined drunk drivers need serious treatment and consequences in order to pull their lives back together.
  • Such a light sentence sends the message that repeat drunk drivers have not committed a serious crime. That message is a slap in the face to the many who have lost loved ones to drunk driving.

While Colorado did institute a felony DUI law for repeat offenders recently, it does not mandate prison time.  There are only two measures that protect society from repeat drunk drivers: prison and ignition interlocks (devices which prevent a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking).  Of the two, prison is the more costly to everyone concerned, but sometimes it is warranted.

The most important change that must be made is for Colorado judges and lawmakers to comprehend how serious impaired driving is, and to create laws – and levy punishments – that address repeat drunk drivers.

Anything less is a slap in the face to those who have suffered too much already.