Recently, a man was convicted for his 16th lifetime DUI offense. 16. That’s sixteen convictions!
Robert Grothe, a 60 year old man was arrested and convicted this summer of DUI, following a hit and run accident involving a parked car. He has been sentenced to two years in prison, not counting credit for time served or early release. Without researching it, I would guess he will do a year at the most. The chances of him reoffending however, during his time in the joint are greatly reduced.
South Dakota law allows the prosecution to count all former DUI convictions in the past ten years. The first and second convictions are misdemeanors, carrying a maximum penalty of one year in the County Jail for each offense. The third conviction is a felony (maximum sentence two years), the fourth a more serious felony (maximum sentence five years) and the fifth an even more serious felony (maximum 10 years). Grothe has been convicted of 11 felony DUI offenses. One thing is certain, the system isn’t protecting us from this guy, or others like him.
South Dakota’s most famous DUI offender was affectionately known as “Mr. DUI.” His real name was Jerry Zeller, a name that appeared on court dockets over 30 times for DUI arrests. Heck, I even arrested him once myself back in the 80s. His DUI world record ended in 2008 when he was killed in a house fire, an event presumably related to his alcoholism. It occurred to me at the time, that it took death to stop his drinking and driving.
What will stop Mr. Grothe? My guess is it won’t be prison, or fines. Certainly there have been opportunities for treatment, perhaps it’s even been suggested to him by the court a time or two.
Drunk drivers kill over 10,000 people each year. That’s over one per hour, every hour. More Americans have been killed by drunk drivers than by all foreign enemies put together. So what are we doing about it? Arresting them…the ones we can catch anyway, and putting them through the criminal justice system over and over again. Well, I am ready to conclude we have failed to find a method that will effectively put a stop to these chronic drunk drivers. I also agree that prison will not cure alcoholism.
I think it’s time to take a proactive step to protect our citizens from these known threats. We need to pick a number like 12 or 15 lifetime DUI convictions and impose a permanent solution to the problem. A life sentence, without the possibility of parole. It’s drastic and expensive, but it’s permanent, and it may be the only way to eliminate their chances of reoffending.
There are a host of alternatives such as ignition locks, seizing vehicles, ankle bracelets etc. but if we spend one more year arguing about which are the best options, what we will gain for sure is more dead victims. How can that be worth it?