Habitual DUI offender gets 5 years


POSTED: Thursday, June 04, 2009

A state judge sentenced a man with 12 prior drunken-driving convictions and one for being a habitual DUI offender to five years in prison yesterday for his second habitual DUI conviction.

;[Preview]  Hawaii Man Sentenced After 12 Prior DUI Convictions

Patrick Jeffrey Rowland faced a judge for the 13th time, explaining his reasons for drinking behind the wheel.

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A person is a habitual DUI offender if he is caught operating a vehicle while under the influence of an intoxicant and he has three or more prior offenses within 10 years.

Five years is the maximum prison term a person can get for habitual DUI.

The lawyer who prosecuted the case thinks state lawmakers should toughen the penalty.

“;It's ridiculous for the law to be limited in such a way that a guy with 12 DUIs (only gets) five years. He certainly deserves more than that,”; said Paul Mow, deputy prosecutor.

Mow thinks the penalties for habitual DUI should escalate with each subsequent offense.

Circuit Judge Michael Wilson also sentenced Patrick Jeffrey Rowland, 58, to 30 days in jail for operating a vehicle on June 2 last year without a valid driver's license. The state administratively revoked his license the previous year. The 30 days is also the maximum allowed by law.

Rowland apologized to the court and the community for drinking and driving. He also asked Wilson for a chance to avoid prison.

“;I'm asking if I can have a chance with your drug court program; I know I can do it,”; he said.

Rowland said he's been sober for the past year he has been in jail.

But his criminal record shows he has already had numerous chances.

His first DUI conviction was in 1978.

For his first habitual DUI conviction in 1996, a state judge gave him probation.

Rowland also has 16 prior offenses for driving while his license was suspended or revoked.

Mow thinks lawmakers should toughen the penalty for that offense, too.

“;It's because these sanctions are so low that that's the reason why these guys feel they can go and continue to do this,”; he said.

Rowland has been in prison for the last year after he crashed his pickup truck through a neighbor's fence and into a parked vehicle. An hour and a half after the crash, his blood alcohol content measured 0.07. The legal threshold for driving drunk is 0.08.

He pleaded guilty last October.