Cracking down on repeat DUI offenders

Let us hope Belmont County Common Pleas Court Judge Frank Fregiato is wrong about the 30-year-old woman he sentenced to a year in prison. Unfortunately, Fregiato may be correct in his assessment of people like her.

Last week, Fregiato ordered the woman spend the next year behind bars. He also revoked her driver’s license for life.

Had he been able to do so, he would have required a longer period of incarceration, the judge noted. Twelve months is the maximum allowed under Ohio law, however.

Fregiato’s concern is understandable. The sentence he handed down Tuesday stemmed from an Oct. 7 arrest of the woman, on a DUI charge. But, as the judge noted, she has a long record, including multiple DUIs, drug-related offenses, domestic violence and even assault on a police officer.

Perhaps of most concern is the woman’s pattern of being caught driving under previous license suspensions. As the judge put it, “I am convinced that this woman is a threat to the citizens of Belmont County, Ohio, anyone else and anywhere else she would live or drive … This court is absolutely convinced that if the defendant is released, that she will kill someone.”

Fregiato is not merely speculating. His fear is based on facts.

A few years ago, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration commissioned research on multiple DUI offenders. It found that, in comparison with first-time offenders, those with multiple convictions are 4.1 times as likely to be involved in fatal accidents.

The risk of a fatality increases with every additional DUI arrest.

Yet even people with several DUI convictions and permanent license suspensions can be found driving.

Stiff prison sentences for them are criticized by those who insist people addicted to alcohol or other drugs should not be punished for what many term an illness.

But they are not being locked up merely due to their addictions — but instead, because they repeatedly put others at risk by driving while under the influence.

Repeat DUI offenders, especially those like the local woman with long records of crime, are ticking time bombs.

The sooner state legislators realize that and enact safeguards against the deadly scofflaws, the better.

COMMENTS