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Loudoun County Attorneys > Blog > Criminal Defense > A Look at Increasing DUI Sentences

A Look at Increasing DUI Sentences

Over the past 20 years, Americans have seen a significant increase in the harsh penalties for intoxicated drivers. Perhaps this is a necessary move given the thousands of lives lost to drunk drivers. In a January case out of Texas, a judge sentenced Ray Eberhardt, a man convicted of his tenth DUI, to a life sentence with the option for parole in 15 years. This extreme case of misbehavior underscores a national intolerance for repeat offenders. However, the question remains whether people like Eberhardt commit these violations purely out of willful disregard for the law and for the safety of others or because of an untreated mental illness or alcohol addiction. Nevertheless, public outcry has led to increased sentences.

Early Research – 80s and 90s

According to research published in the Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice, “as late as 1988,” DUIs were generally considered a traffic citation, but it was around this time that many states began criminalizing the offense and mandating jail terms for offenders. Around the early 1990s, we saw a trend toward brief jail sentences, ranging from a few weeks to 30 days in most states.

1982 – Arizona Legislation

As an example of early DUI legislation, consider that as of 1982, a first-time offender in Arizona was subject to a 24-hour jail sentence, $250 fine, and 90-day license suspension, punishments that are less than they are today. Yet, in 1982 this was considered extremely harsh and overly restrictive. To further illustrate, consider that a second-time offender faced upwards of 60 days in jail and even more license actions, yet no revocation. Even after a third offense in three years, a person faced no more than six months in jail.

Other efforts

Today, the 1982 Arizona DUI law would be impossible to pass through any state legislature, because it is far too relaxed. As our country continues to recognize the extreme dangers presented by drunk drivers, we continue to fight for better training and victim impact programs. In Virginia Beach, students were recently allowed to participate in a drunk driving simulation program that helps people understand the realities of impaired driving. All these efforts help, but it seems the state still continues to use increasing sentences as a primary method of deterrence.

Fast Forward to 2016

Today, Virginia’s penalties are a lot tougher. A first-time adult offender (21 and older) faces a litany of penalties, including and up to seven days’ license suspension, fines between $250 and $300,//wp-admin/post.php?post=2776&action=edit participation in Alcohol Safety Action Programs, full revocation of license for up to a year, restitution payments, ignition interlock devices, long-term restricted license, and a permanent criminal record.  However, far from Arizona’s once harsh six-month jail terms in 1982, Virginia’s current law makes a third offense a felony and subjects the offender to permanent license revocation and seizure of a vehicle.

Defending a DUI

Many attorneys in the Leesburg area claim to represent clients in DUI cases, but not all attorneys have the experience and successes of Simms Showers, LLP.  To learn more about DUI laws or if you have been charged with a driving offense, make your first call count. Call Simms Showers, LLP today.

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