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Less than half of DUIs end in jail time

News editor

Despite tough new state laws mandating jail time or lengthy community service, less than half of Marion County drunken driving cases in the first half of this year resulted in jail time.

The 8th Judicial District Court in the county completed nine cases of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol from January through June.

Three received 48 hours of jail time, and one received five days in jail. Five others received no jail time. Three were granted diversions and two cases were dismissed.

48 hours in jail

  • Daniel V. Catlin II of Florence was sentenced to 48 hours in jail and 12 months probation with a 90-day suspended jail sentence.
  • Leslie W. Coker of Wichita was sentenced to 48 hours in jail and 12 months of probation with a six-month suspended jail sentence.
  • Brian A. Solis of Wellington — with one prior offense — was sentenced to 48 hours in jail, six days of house arrest, and 12 months probation with a nine-month suspended jail sentence.

5 days in jail

  • Nathan Jay McGee of Peabody — with one prior offense — was sentenced to five days in jail and 12 months probation with a six-month suspended jail sentence.

Dismissals

DUI charges against a pair of repeat offenders were dismissed:

  • Stuart F. Parks of Wichita had three or more prior convictions. His DUI charge and a charge of driving with no proof of insurance were dismissed after he pleaded no-contest to being a habitual offender of driving while his license was revoked. He was fined $300 and served no jail time.
  • Tyler J. Slater of Peabody had what would have been his third DUI and a charge of driving with a revoked or suspended license dismissed.

Marion County Attorney Susan Robson said the cases were dismissed because evidence necessary to get a conviction wouldn’t have been allowed in court. In a recent example, a field sobriety test was likely to be disallowed because it wasn’t performed at the site of the arrest. Robson was unavailable for comment Tuesday on the details of either dismissal.

Robson said the testimony of law enforcement officers, based on field sobriety tests, often carries more weight in court than a breath test because some people don’t trust the accuracy of breath analyzers.

Some jurors would rather hear from an officer that the defendant swerved all over the road, smelled of alcohol, was belligerent, and had alcohol in the vehicle.

Diversions

Three first-time cases were given diversions:

  • Douglas K. Boucher of Smith Center.
  • Timothy Neil Hurst of Hillsboro.
  • Christopher McQuery of Marion.

Diversions are pending for Thomas J. Likins Jr. of Wichita and Nicole Alissa Rowley of Tampa.

“In my mind, granting a diversion is the province of the prosecutor,” 8th Judicial District Chief Judge Michael F. Powers said.

Judges aren’t involved in the decision, he said.

By Kansas law, diversions may be offered only for a first-time DUI and never if the offender has a commercial driver’s license, Robson said.

Before deciding whether to offer a diversion, she considers whether the case involved an accident and speaks to the arresting officer about how the offender behaved, how intoxicated he or she was, whether he or she was swerving all over the road, and similar considerations.

The biggest benefit of a diversion is that it spares the defendant jail time, Robson said. Defendants still pay fines, lose driving privileges, and undergo frequent background checks to be certain they are obeying the terms of their diversion.

“It still shows up on your driving record as a conviction,” Robson said.

Sentencing

Under Kansas’ latest DUI law, which went into effect mid-2011, a first conviction of DUI has a mandatory sentence of 48 hours of jail or 100 hours of community service, in addition to fines. Jail time can be as much as six months. Powers said he was surprised how few offenders request community service instead of jail time.

Second offenses have a jail term of 90 days to one year, although the offender may be released on probation after five days. House arrest or work release can serve as part of the minimum jail time.

Jail terms for a third offense are the same as for a second offense, except the offender cannot be released on probation until the minimum 90 days is up. A third offense also counts as a felony unless the offender went at least 10 years without a DUI.

Fourth and subsequent offenses are always felonies and have jail sentences of 90 days to a year. Offenders must serve at least 90 days in jail before they may be released on probation.

Powers said a lot of factors go into his sentencing decisions: prior criminal history, behavior at the time of the DUI and afterward, possibly the defendant’s blood-alcohol content. Accepting responsibility and entering treatment voluntarily both reflect well on a defendant, he said.

“It really is a case-by-case decision,” Powers said. “There is no cookie-cutter approach.”

Another consideration Powers makes when ordering probation is his expectations of the defendant. If he expects a defendant may have probation revoked and be sent to jail multiple times before getting their act together, he will include a longer suspended jail sentence.

In all cases, loss of driving privileges is handled as an administrative matter by the Kansas Department of Revenue and not as a judicial matter.

Last modified July 19, 2012

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