Crime Tracker: Repeat DUI offenders plague system - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Posted by: Mike Truett 2/23/05 10:05pm

Crime Tracker: Repeat DUI offenders plague system

One third of all drunk driving arrests are people previously convicted of DUI. Crime Tracker now examines why even with tougher DUI penalties, that means many frequent offenders threaten your family's safety on the road. Dash cam video from Collierville police shows Glenn Hanson getting his thirteenth DUI. Hanson of Red Banks, MS pleaded guilty earlier this month and got a five year sentence.

"It's really unfortunate we have a number of people out there who spend considerable time in jail and still go out and drink and drive. It's like they don't learn their lesson," said Shelby County District Attorney Bill Gibbons.

Most of Glenn Hanson's 13 DUIs happened in Shelby County. Local convictions help prosecutors and judges see a clear pattern of drunk driving. But Metro DUI commander Joe Pipkin says drunk driving convictions in rural Mid-South counties or other states often fail to appear on repeat offenders' records.

"We just don't have tracking right now like we should," said Pipkin.

 Incomplete records mean some repeat offenders dodge the penalties they should face. Talented DUI defense lawyers often plead repeat offenders down to a first offense or lesser charges like reckless driving, again obscuring a clear pattern of DUI in a driver's record. And with Shelby County's 4,000 DUI cases a year jamming court dockets---in addition to all the other crime---many judges accept plea bargains that give repeat offenders the minimum penalty.

"We give them the minimum and basically slap them on the wrist and send them on their way until they kill somebody. When they kill somebody, everyone wants to know why wasn't he in jail?" said Judge James Beasley.

Judge Beasley sentenced Memphian David M. Hauser to five months for his fourth DUI last month. Hauser was supposed to report to the corrections center January 14th but instead caught a 5th DUI charge in an explosive wreck at Walnut Grove and Farm Road that severely injured two men. Adam Plemmons witnessed the crash.

"My question is: how are we going to fix it?" he said.

"About the only thing I know to do under our current system is speed up our trials as much as we can to make sure that person is held accountable as soon as possible," Beasley said. "If we had more money and more places available to address the problem, the psychological problem where we could put 'em in rehabs. All we can do mostly around here is put 'em in a 30 day dry out facility and then they're back out again."

Metro DUI now has two or three cars patrolling for drunk drivers 24/7

"We're still understaffed. I'd like to see seven cars per shift because you're talking about Memphis and Shelby County. That's a large area," said Pipkin.

The DA now has two prosecutors working full time on DUI cases. Those prosecutors say having a court dedicated to drunk driving might help justice along and help more repeat offenders bottom out and seek recovery sincerely.

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