Everyone understands that drunk driving can be a serious offense. Thousands of lives are lost every year due to the actions of impaired drivers, an important problem that has resulted in substantial legislative and law enforcement attention. Rather than work on rehabilitating those with serious alcohol problems, many in the criminal justice world have instead focused on creating ever-harsher penalties, punishing impaired drivers with increasingly lengthy (and costly) stays behind bars.
A recent case in Texas gives new meaning to the term harsh punishment, at least when it comes to drunk drivers. Richard Lee Pollard, a man from Llano County, Texas, was convicted by a jury of felony DWI earlier this month after less than 20 minutes of deliberation.
The 72-year-old man was then sentenced by a district court judge who chose to punish the repeat offender to the maximum extent allowed by the law. Showing no restraint, the judge sentenced Pollard to life in prison, shocking both Pollard and his criminal defense attorney.
In this case, Pollard was arrested back in May of 2013, after several other motorists noticed Pollard driving recklessly through traffic. Officers eventually located Pollard and pulled him over, discovering that his BAC was more than twice the legal limit. Pollard was released after posting bail and proceeded to make his legal troubles even worse. Only a few weeks after his May arrest, Pollard as again picked up for drunk driving and charged yet again.
Pollard, like many repeat offenders, has struggled with alcohol addiction and dependency for decades. Prosecutors brought forward evidence showing that the man had been convicted of drunk driving offenses seven times before. The first of the charges dated back as far as 1981, revealing years of struggle to overcome his alcoholism.
Prosecutors urged jurors and the judge to find Pollard guilty of the felony DWI charges so that he could be put away for life. They argued that Pollard’s irresponsible behaviors had endangered the lives of innocent motorists for years and that his own liberty was a serious potential risk for other drivers in the same communities.
Though an urge to punish those whose bad behavior puts others in danger is understandable, critics of such stiff sentences point out that Pollard himself is a victim of a terrible addiction to alcohol. Many alcoholics struggle for years trying to get control over a dangerous problem. Sadly, criminal laws are far more likely to dish out jail time rather than rehabilitation, something that only pushes problems further down the road, rather than tackling the underlying issue.
Source: “Habitual DWI Offender Sentenced to Life in Prison,” published at LlanoNews.com.