A general principle of criminal law is that the punishment must “fit the crime.”
Is a life sentence for a 6th DUI overkill? I’d sure say so.
On September 18th, Rose Ann Davidson was convicted and sentenced by a Texas jury to life in prison for her 6th DUI. Davidson, 44, was arrested on July 27, 2012 after she was seen driving erratically. The arresting officer also found an open container of beer in her vehicle. Davidson’s blood alcohol content was later determined to be 0.21 percent.
Davidson had, apparently, been released from prison just weeks before for her 5th DUI conviction from 2010. Her convictions date back to 1996.
Think this was the first time a Texas jury has thrown the book at a DUI offender? Think again.
In November of 2012, Louis Govea, 65, was sentenced to life in prison after suffering 5 prior DUI convictions.
In August of 2010, Bobby Stoval, 54, was sentenced to life in prison for his 9th DUI conviction, which injured another person.
The only DUI conviction in California that could land a person a life sentence is what is known as “Watson murder.” A person can be sentenced to 15 years to life in prison in California if they kill someone while driving drunk and they suffered at least one prior DUI offense. In fact, even if a person is convicted of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, California DUI law limits the sentence at 10 years in prison.
Fortunately, here in California, we reserve life sentences much more egregious crimes. This is not so say that a DUI conviction should be taken lightly. However, for a person to spend the rest of their life in jail for a non-violent crime without malicious intent, regardless of how many prior DUIs the person suffered, constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.