Thursday, February 21, 2008

You drink, you drive, you go to jail (after 19 DWI's)

Is forever too short a time in a case like this?

Man gets 8 years for 19 DUIs
Judge lectures driver; suspends license forever

HAMILTON - A Hamilton man's 19th drunken driving conviction earned him eight years in prison and a lecture about his 30-year record, which ranks him among Ohio's six worst drunken drivers.

"You knew a long time ago that you had a problem with drinking and driving and you've never chosen to do anything," Judge Noah Powers told Stephen W. Wolf in Butler County Common Pleas Court during sentencing Tuesday.
Wolf faced up to 10 years in prison as a result of a hit-and-run crash in Fairfield Township last summer.

He's among four Ohio drivers with 19 drunken-driving convictions; two others are tied for the state record of 20 convictions.

Powers also imposed a lifetime driving suspension. But Wolf has disregarded suspensions since at least 1984.

Now 51, Wolf was first convicted of drunken driving in 1978, just before his 22nd birthday. Ohio law then allowed little jail time for repeat drunken drivers. Laws have toughened since.
Butler County Prosecutor Robin Piper said Wolf's eight-year prison term is proof: "This guy is the example that shows everyone that drinking too much and getting in a car can land you in prison for eight years. That ought to be long enough to sober you up."

Piper said he understands alcoholism is a disease. But, he said: "No disease makes you get in a car and drive. If you want to get plastered, stay home and get plastered on the front porch instead of climbing into a car and risking the lives of innocent people. Stay at home with your 12-pack."

Enquirer readers e-mailed to express outrage about Wolf's driving record and about his lawyer, Robert Qucsai, urging leniency.

Lindy Ranz, of Harrison, wrote: "Would Mr. Qucsai let any of his family members ride in a car driven by Wolf? I certainly would not. We are all lucky that this 'drunk' did not kill anyone."

"Lock him up FOREVER," wrote Jimmy Combs of Newport. "Nobody deserves 19 chances to kill someone while driving drunk."

Qucsai called his client "a broken man" who suffers from multiple sclerosis, leukemia and alcohol abuse - and needs help.

Wolf apologized for his actions.
But Powers noted that Wolf at first denied driving during the Fairfield Township incident.

"When I look at everything you've done in the past, your record doesn't warrant any further consideration," Powers said.