Prison time for drunk driving

A Marietta man with multiple driving under suspension infractions was sentenced Tuesday in Washington County Common Pleas Court to 17 months in prison for driving drunk and injuring his female passenger.

Daniel E. Burton, 34, of 116 Franklin St., was sentenced on a fourth-degree felony charge of vehicular assault to which he pleaded guilty March 24.

Burton had been drinking heavily and had been kicked out of a local bar before getting behind the wheel and crashing his car into a pole Aug. 27 near WMOA-AM 1490 on Lancaster Street, said Washington County Assistant Prosecutor Kevin Rings.

“(He) had been told to leave the Harmar Tavern. And his (blood alcohol content) was .21, so that is two and a half times the legal limit,” said Rings.

Burton’s drunk driving resulted in a single-vehicle accident which sent his female passenger to the hospital. Rings did not elaborate on the extent or nature of the victim’s injuries.

“She was laid up for a couple of weeks,” he said.

In accordance with the plea agreement, Rings said he did not oppose a community control sanction for Burton.

Burton and his attorney, Ray Smith, also asked for community control.

“Alcohol was involved in this case. This was a wake-up call for him. He got hurt from the crash as well,” said Smith.

Lately Burton has been seeking counseling at L&P Services, said Smith, who asked that Burton be sent to the SEPTA Correctional Facility where he could pursue his GED.

Burton echoed the idea that the event had been a wake-up call and asked for forgiveness.

“I just asked you guys just be able to forgive me for my actions and the things I’ve caused and the hurt that I put my family under,” he said.

But Washington County Common Pleas Court Judge Ed Lane questioned why one of Burton’s prior infractions, including an OVI and seven driving under suspension charges, had not served as such a wake-up call.

“Quite frankly sir, you’re 34 years old. You’ve had a lot of bump-ins with the law…You’ve had a lot of wake-up calls, and you’ve ignored them all,” said Lane.

Though most fourth-degree felonies can not result in a prison conviction for first-time felony offenders, the fact that Burton’s crime caused physical harm to the victim overrode the presumption for community control.

“You’ve had many opportunities to turn your life around and you chose not to do it. Now you’ve seriously hurt somebody and you could have killed somebody,” said Lane just before sentencing Burton to 17 months in prison on the charge.

Burton has served no jail time on the charge and was therefore not entitled to credit against his prison term, added Lane.