Child Killed by Drunken Driver: Too Many Second Chances

On behalf of Brown & Crouppen, P.C. posted in Motor Vehicle Accident on Saturday, November 10, 2012

Sometimes, you can only shake your head. We all like to believe in second chances and redemption, but you have to wonder at a case like that of a man who was arrested last month on charges of murder and assault. He struck two brothers in Pagedale, leaving the 4-year-old dead and the 10-year-old injured, and he continued driving.

One may think this is a terrible story about a recent vehicular homicide, but it gets worse. This is not the first time the man had been involved with a car accident that left others dead. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch details a car accident from 1983 that left two men dead. No charges were filed in that case.

And that was beginning of his “career” of 30 years of DWI incidents and arrests. The Post-Dispatch says he has been arrested “about 150 times” and has been pepper sprayed so many times that he is losing his eyesight. Twenty-one police departments in St. Louis County have arrested him.

His license was revoked 1993. He has been convicted of DWI 6 times out 11 alcohol related arrests. Two of his convictions were felonies, four misdemeanors and yet, for all that, he served less than two years in jail.

The Post-Dispatch describes him as “a poster child” for a failed criminal justice system attempts to deal with DWI.

If nothing else, this case demonstrates the failure of a punitive incarceration-culture that ignores the underlying alcohol problem. The system would arrest, “punish,” and release, then repeat. Over and over again.

The legislature has a difficult choice. They could create a “life without parole” sentence for repeat DWI offenders, taking them off the street for good, or they could develop an effective treatment program that actually stops them from reoffending.

Unfortunately, neither of these solutions will provide solace to the families who have been forever changed by the negligent and illegal acts of this man and other repeat DWI offenders who cause serious and fatal injury.

While it is unclear whether there is any likelihood that a personal injury or wrongful death suit might arise from this case, it can certainly be said that sometimes, when the criminal justice system fails and innocent people are hurt, the civil courts may be the only recourse for victims seeking justice and fair compensation.

Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “150 arrests, 11 DWIs and, now, 1 dead 4-year-old,” Jeremy Kohler and Joel Currier, October 12, 2012

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