A 52-year-old man in Waco, TX named Russell Sneed has recently received a life sentence for DUI. This is sobering news for anyone who is facing a DUI charge. His criminal and DUI history is, of course, long and sorted. This was his 9th DUI conviction in the past 29 years. He had previously been sentenced to 40 and then 10 years in jail for his 7th and 8th DUI convictions but both times was eventually allowed to leave on parole. Now he will occupy a jail cell for the remainder of his life.
It is important to note that no one was injured as a result of his drunk driving and he did not cause any accidents either. It seems that the jury was afraid that he would eventually cause a fatal DUI crash and decided that taking him off the streets permanently was the best alternative. Prosecutors were very proud of these results and said that they sent a message to other repeat offenders.
Life sentences in Maine are not given for OUI offenses. The Supreme Court of Maine, ruled in State v. Shortsleeves that certain elements such as multiple deaths must be involved in order to receive a life sentence. Still, the support for this ruling shows the stigma of repeat DUI offenders in this country and may even predict a growing trend in DUI law.
The saddest part of this story is that it does not address if any efforts were made to help the Sneed. While he obviously has demonstrated a pattern of drinking and driving, jail has not proved helpful to him in the past. Perhaps instead of simply locking him away another type of sentence would have been more productive. He admitted to a lifelong struggle with alcoholism so substance abuse rehabilitation may have been a good place to start. Though taking away an offender's driver's license does not always stop them from driving, it does help.