In Texas, a man who pleaded guilty to his 10th DUI offense was sentenced to life in prison. Is that sentence excessive? After all, the driver wasn’t acting with the intent to harm anyone.
I don’t think such sentences are excessive. There’s no doubt that driving while drunk is dangerous to the public at large. Thousands die every year from accidents involving drunk drivers. And while people might argue that an initial offense deserves some leniency — because the person might not be aware of their blood alcohol levels, or the degree of their impairment, or the risks — you simply cannot justify repeated offenses.
The Texas man who pled guilty to his 10th offense, for example, was found swerving back and forth and driving on the wrong side of the road. He had served time for his prior offenses, in both Texas and Colorado, and he nevertheless admitted to police officers that he had consumed most of a bottle of whiskey found in his car and then getting behind the wheel. A person like that simply has no regard for the safety of the general public, and is engaging in recidivist conduct that exposes his fellow citizens to unreasonable risk. Indeed, you might consider the repeat offenses to be a kind of perverse cry for help.
Drunk driving is one of those areas where society has seen a sea change in prevailing views. People used to make jokes about drunk drivers, and police officers used to escort the over-the-limit driver home, rather than taking them to jail. No longer — and for good reason. Drunk drivers who are repeat offenders are dangerous to themselves and to the rest of us. When someone has had nine prior offenses and still has not learned their lesson, I have no problem with saying that they deserve to spend their life behind bars.