Man Gets Life for 9th DUI

Posted by Jon Ibanez on June 13th, 2016

A Houston man was sentence to life in prison this past week following his ninth, yes, ninth DUI conviction.

In May of 2015, Donald Middleton, 56, hit a 16-year-old driver head on and subsequently fled to a nearby gas station to hide. The 16-year-old happened to be the son of a Montgomery County Precinct Constable. Middleton was subsequently caught and found to be under the influence of alcohol. Fortunately the teen was not severely harmed as a result of the accident.

During the sentencing hearing, Middleton took the stand and told the court that his drinking problem developed when he was just a freshman in high school after years of being teased and bullied by classmates.

“To me there was no question that we needed to do everything that we could to ensure he wouldn’t be on the roads driving with our friends, our families, our kids on the road putting everyone at risk,” said Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney Justin Fowles.

According to court records, Middleton’s first DUI conviction occurred in 1980 when he was only 20 years old. For that conviction, Middleton was sentenced to a $200 fine and 60 days in jail. Since then, Middleton faced DUI charges in 1983, 1992, 1993, twice in 1997, 1999, and 2008. He also faced a possession of crack cocaine charge in 1993.

Notwithstanding Middleton’s prior criminal history, he maintained a valid Texas driver’s license.

The United States Supreme Court has consistently held that to be constitutional a punishment must be proportionate to the crime. Although the definition of proportionality isn’t always clear, when punishments and crimes are compared, some gaping discrepancies become apparent.

In most states, a life sentence is reserved for people who intend to commit egregious and violent offenses; murder, robbery, rape, etc.

There is no question that when a person drinks and drives, there is a risk of death or harm to bystanders. But the vast majority of people who drink and drive do not intend death or harm to anyone and most of the time no one is hurt or killed. People commit other traffic offenses every day that could also lead to death or harm and they too don’t intend on harming or killing anyone, yet they aren’t villainized or punished like DUI offenders. Are we to send a person for life if they have nine tickets for texting and driving?

If we’re punishing DUI offenders for committing non-violent offenses because of the mere possibility that they could harm someone, then there is a very apparent problem with consistency in our sentencing of non-violent crimes.

Texas’s allowance of life sentences for multiple DUI offenders speaks to a larger, and often publically denied, problem of lack of treatment for alcoholism. Whether the public wants to believe it or not, alcoholism is a disease.

Throwing a person in prison for life means giving up on that person. Although that may be an appropriate punishment for some offenses, it seems particularly cruel to me to give life to someone who made a mistake, who did not intend harm, who has a disease, and because their conduct could cause harm.

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  • SargentRock

    Nope, sorry–nine chances is WAY too many. At what point do you put the blame on the system when a jackass like this inevitably seriously hurts someone? With that many DUI’s and a valid license he’s clearly been through a few programs at this point, and obviously none of them worked. As admitted alcoholics will tell you, you can’t force help on someone that’s unwilling to admit they have a problem.

  • Excellent and helpful post… I am so glad to left comment on this. This has been a so interesting read, would love to read more here….

  • jw Chadwick

    I don’t think that’s it all at. You can admit you have a problem, even get treatment. However alcohol is such a strong elixor, Even a single drink years later will lead right back to very same trouble and it’s compounds over time.
    I’ve seen men and women who have been in alcohol programs several times by their own account, only to keep doing the same thing. Alcoholics breakdown into three groups, Those that find permanent sobriety, Those that are in an out of sobriety and treatment sometimes years between episodes good or bad and those that never find sobriety at all, right up to the point of death.
    My last episode I hope cured me, as I’d known for years that I had a problem and asked for treatment while in the navy and gotten mediocre outpatient treatment. I remember telling my counselors that I still had a strong urge to drink and these people released me simply to make room for the next patient coming in. Two months later I got dui and wasn’t allowed to reenlist. Private outpatient treatment was pricy and all too mixed in with drug users who were also included in our group. An alcoholics behavior and a meth users behavior are two different monsters and it was all I could do to just accept being thrown in with people I couldn’t relate to, at all. Stayed sober 5 years.
    Had a dui about 42 months ago, forced myself into serious detox facility for 9 days followed by 35 days of residential VA alcohol treatment facility and almost 2 years of aftercare. Sober since the day of the dui.
    Does it suck to not drink?? Yes. Do I miss it? Yes.
    However, I don’t miss the insanity of drinking so much I don’t remember what I did or where I spent money, who I did something with or who I may have offended. I had horrible hangovers, Even though my tolerance was through the roof I could still drink so much that’s it’s a wonder how I didn’t kill myself with alcohol poisoning.
    All this being stated?? I’d rather eat a bullet than ever go through any of it a 3rd time even in five years or ten years much less a 9th time. It’s just pure insanity In my experience.

  • Good story, personally, I am an alcoholic. I have not had a drink in ±30 years, I lost the urge when after drinking a quart of spiced rum a day for over a year my body revolted, I would go to sleep, start coughing, then the entire contents of my stomach would be all over my pillow. I turned to drugs after that, tried a number of treatment centers all were 12 step based, 99% of them sent addicts to AA meetings. I found 12 step groups to be just another cult, go to meetings repeat key words & phrases to gain acceptance. I have been clean from all mind altering substances for 26 years.

  • DUIBlog

    Approved

  • jw Chadwick

    That’s exactly what I found AA to be, and like you found it be just as depressing to be forced to go into these rooms where people would just recite these same exact stories, how great it was to drink, bla bla bla.
    I remember having this navy chief, in the inpatient side at group meetings telling how much AA was needed, and that if I didn’t go to these meetings I couldn’t rely on my personal conviction to stay away from alcohol. His logic was that just relying on yourself was equal to making your mind to not having a bowel movement.
    Mind you I had my dui after the attending 21 days of supposed treatment in bremerton Washington where I left telling these clowns I still had this strong urge to drink, and even did so while in their care. Was a complete joke as I requested intensive inpatient treatment in San Diego, level 3 as it was referred to.
    From what I hear now, any alcohol incidents are almost immediately processed out of the service, even self referring yourself as I did in 2003. What’s even more worrisome is that when service members walk into their nearest exchange always within walking distance of main barracks it’s packed with cheap bulk alcohol, usually beer and there’s always hard liquor available. However it’s also taxed heavily as about 15 years ago a bunch of non service members bitched to the DoD, and the taxes were brought on just as everyone else pays, tobacco and alcohol.
    I remember these six foot tall displays of corona, like 30 count bottle cases for like 15$, wtf were they telling active duty kids?? Drink responsibly?? My larger local exchange was remodeled a few years ago, they took out lawn and garden section to replace it with row after row after row of name brand hard liquor and beer, almost 10 solid isles. Yet the all the branches exchanges are run the same, and the service wonders WHY they have such a problem with binge drinking and alcohol incidents.
    On deployments, it’s bad. We would immediately get off the the boat, (use John c. stennis-cvn-74) only to find the nearest bar or area where everyone could get drunk asap. I’d never recall anyplace I’d ever worked civilian wise where people en masse got off work, just to get so pickled. Officers did is away from enlisted however very senior enlisted did so openly, then scolded anyone who had some incident. It’s was a very prevalent culture in both deployed commands I was with while active.
    Drugs weren’t
    tolerated though, we had 16 guys thrown out of the service after one particular port visit to Vancouver 2001. These guys did some really stupid stuff, then posted it on the then MySpace, all got bad conduct discharges
    over it and anyone who attempted to cover it up. These were some of the very enlisted higher ranking officers and enlisted who were sleeping with others wife’s, getting duis, and a few other violations of the ucmj.

    Hey, thanks for the understanding, awesome that you found sobriety after all of that.

  • Douglas Self

    Agreed. Sentencing this pathetic man to life imprisonment on the basis of being an incorrigible DUI offender is still excessive. It’s one thing to ban him from having a license, forever (obviously well-deserved and long overdue), and to have an lengthy probation, once his prison sentence is served, which would send him back to jail if he fails to go through with counseling and treatment for his alcoholism OR is found to be in possession of alcohol or have it in his system. It’s another to just throw in in a hole and weld the door shut for what he MIGHT do.
    The question is asked, would we sentence someone to life for repeated ‘texting while driving’? Don’t give ‘em ideas, please…