Another Life Sentence for Drunk Driving

Posted by Lawrence Taylor on August 14th, 2008

So what do you do with someone who has the genetic disease of alcoholism – and continues to drink and drive?  Get him treatment for his disease?  Or maybe you throw him in prison for the rest of his life….

Wichita County Man Gets Life Sentence for 10th DWI

Wichita Falls, TX.  Aug. 8  -    A man with nine previous drunken driving convictions was sentenced to life in prison.

 Kenneth Chris Oneal, 58, received the maximum sentence Thursday after jurors convicted him of driving while intoxicated-repetition, his 10th drunken-driving related offense…

Well, you say, he may be an alcoholic, but he didnt have to choose to drive.  But that’s a Catch-22, isn’t it?  I mean, part of the legal definition of driving while intoxicated is impaired judgment – the inability to make rational and intelligent choices.

This sentence is far from an aberration.  See, for example, Third DUI = Life in Prison and 99 Years for Drunk Driving

For 15 years now, the DUI fatality rate has remained fairly stable (see MADDness and  Latest Figures in MADD’s War on Drunk Driving).   In view of the fact that most fatalities are caused by recidivists — usually alcoholics — isn’t it time to consider alternatives to MADD’s hysterical vengeance/prohibition approach?  Read Time for a Change .

(Thanks to Tom Termini)

  • jonkatz5

    Thanks for this message.

    If only the United States courts would take a page from the British Columbia Supreme Court against criminalizing addiction. A recent B.C. Supreme Court decision threw a wrench or more in criminalizing drug addiction.

    I do not konw if your comments section accepts URL links, so instead I suggest you find this issue by going to the cbc canada site with a google search of “”british columbia” “supreme court” drug addiction. The BC Supreme Court ruling on this appears to be at cfdp[dot]ca[slash]sif[underscore]bcsc[dot]pdf

  • joe

    Firstly, it’s no surprise that a Texas jury would go extremely overboard in such a conviction. Treating alcoholism as a disease is something that courts seem to be way behind on; throwing people in jail 25 years or more without there being any fatality or harm caused is outrageous and unconstititional.

  • koivisto

    The thought police are alive and well. Why not make it be illegal just to be intoxicated? Who knows what you’ll do when under the influence? Ah, I keep forgetting there is money to be made.

  • David W

    Has this man ever had an accident of any nature? It appears he is being sentenced for a crime that hasn’t happened yet. Child molesters and rapists get off with far less.

    This certainly is lopsided…

  • donleedon

    I am currently facing my second DWI. My sentence came down as DWI 1, which carries no jail time, through some accident of fate or incompetency. If I were to appeal, I would be putting myself right back into the crosshairs of going to jail for 14 to 30 days. The part that truly pisses me off is that the prosecutions case was weak and my evidence was supposedly strong. However, the judge played two roles that day, that of the prosecution and judge when it came time for my judgment. The simple fact of the matter was that my blood test was .070 and my breath test was 0.95 and these were about an hour apart. The judge said “fine” to my blood test and counted back from this point to the time of my arrest putting me at .090 without the prosecution making this argument. It’s really too bad I didn’t murder someone as this “bloody glove” evidence would have been thrown out when the glove didn’t fit and I would be free to live my life with only 1 DWI conviction on my record.

    I might add that even with my first DWI, I have never had an accident and have never caused another person any harm with a motor vehicle (or otherwise for that matter). I have come closer to doing so when I was talking on my cell phone than ever when I was “drunk” by government standards. Wrong of course by their standards, but I know when I can’t drive, and have crashed on front lawns in the dead of winter because I knew I could not safely drive. Personal responsibility is simply thrown out the window in regard to today’s sobriety laws (including the whole “legal age 21″ law).

    I want to fight this judgment, but even my lawyer recommends not to as I do not face jail time with this sentence, which I would if I appeal. I also face a state expert that will say that a .025 reduction an hour is reasonable upholding the breathalyser. I don’t know what to do, I know that I was not a danger that day, but apparently that does not matter.

    Another thing that I might add, the rate of medical related deaths is 16 times higher than the total of traffic related deaths, not including drunk driving. If that doesn’t make you sick or wake up, I don’t know what will.

  • Yumacat

    Wow. Sounds like a lot of trouble. If I were you, I wouldn’t have anything to drink before driving. Oh, I know how unreasonable thist is right? MADD is such a buzz-kill…