After 6 DWI Convictions and Supervision Violation: One Day in Jail

Supervision violations get slap on the wristThe ineffective parent is a stereotype that gets lampooned regularly on TV: the one who says, “I’m counting to five…” and then does nothing. The one who says, “Or else!” but can’t answer the question, “Or else what?”

It’s funny on The Simpsons, but not so much when systems designed to contain drunk drivers start acting the same way. For drunk drivers to get the message, punishment and other measures need to be strong and consistent. That didn’t happen in the case of a man from Bryan, Texas.

A man named Micky Chambers was convicted of his sixth DWI last august. The plea agreement – and no, we don’t like plea agreements in DWI cases – stated that Chambers had to undergo treatment and alcohol and drug testing, perform community service, and use an ignition interlock, a device which prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.

Long story short, he didn’t do it. Chambers returned to jail for supervision violation. He’d violated eight conditions of his supervision agreement, among them:

  • He drove 32 times without his ignition interlock
  • He skipped alcohol and drug testing
  • He bailed on his treatment
  • He didn’t finish his community service

For this demonstration of his resistance to changing his behavior, Chambers went back to jail.

For one day.

Getting Serious About Supervision Violation

It’s understandable that Texas, like other states, wants to keep people out of prison if it can. Prison is a last resort, a costly measure which is fraught with societal and personal complications.

But something is not working correctly here. In particular, one needs to ask how Chambers was able to drive 32 times without his interlock and not set any alarms off.

If the vehicle in question was registered to the offender, it should have an interlock on it, and the state should ensure that it’s on every vehicle the offender drives.

If the vehicle was borrowed, then the person who owns it should face consequences for providing it to a person with an ignition interlock restriction.

The upshot is that ignition interlock laws work when they’re properly enforced. That is why in 2015 Texas became state number 25 to pass a law mandating ignition interlocks for all offenders. Since then another five states have followed in Texas’s footsteps.

But having a law in place does not help if offenders can plea-bargain out of it. One thing we know is that drunk drivers with multiple offenses are very likely to keep on driving drunk unless they are prevented from doing so.

And preventing drunk driving is the job of the ignition interlock – a job it can do if it’s installed and monitored correctly. Legislators must understand that DWI laws – and ignition interlocks – work best if they are applied consistently. One day in jail doesn’t cut it.