Springfield resident James Burkitt was recently sentenced to seven years in prison for his most recent OVI conviction. The steep sentence was imposed after it was discovered this most recent OVI conviction was his seventh since 1996 and his tenth since 1988. (In other words, Mr. Burkitt averaged an OVI conviction every 2.6 years for the last 26 years.) In the case of his most recent OVI charges, Burkitt was found slouched over the wheel of his vehicle at an intersection. Officers investigated and found that Burkitt had vomit on his person, smelled of alcohol, had slurred speech and bloodshot eyes. He was unable to complete field sobriety tests.
Is Seven Years Too Much Time?
Mr. Burkitt’s case highlights the severe penalties that face chronic OVI offenders. With each OVI conviction, the driver is subjected to more serious consequences. By the time a driver obtains a record like Mr. Burkitt, a court is likely to have little patience or sympathy for the driver because:
- Attempts to correct the driver’s behavior through counseling or other forms of treatment have likely failed;
- Jail sanctions of increasing duration have failed to dissuade the driver from committing additional OVI offenses;
- Increasingly severe fines have failed to deter the driver from drinking and driving; and
- Probation or other forms of supervision have done little help the driver reform his ways.
In such circumstances, it is not uncommon for a court to impose the most severe sentence it can under the theory that, even if the driver will never stop drinking, at least the court can assure itself that the driver will not hurt or kill anyone while he or she is incarcerated. In Mr. Burkitt’s case, the long period of incarceration will strike some as being too harsh – after all, Mr. Burkitt did not injure or kill anyone while committing this OVI offense. Others will feel that Mr. Burkitt’s sentence is too lenient given all the times he could have injured or killed someone.
Can an Attorney Help a Chronic OVI Offender?
It may seem like chronic OVI offenders like Mr. Burkitt have no reason to hire a criminal lawyer. While in this case it was unlikely that any defense attorney could have gotten a “not guilty” verdict for Mr. Burkitt (it is difficult to argue against evidence that a person is too drunk to even have his or her sobriety tested), that does not mean that a defense attorney is unnecessary. There are two major advantages to retaining a Dayton OVI defense attorney, even if a person is a repeat OVI offender:
- First, the attorney can investigate the prior convictions of the offender. Only certain convictions can be counted as “prior convictions.” Convictions that occurred too long ago or that occurred without the driver having access to legal counsel may not be relied on for sentencing.
- Next, the attorney can argue against the imposition of the most severe sanctions. This can include finding witnesses and evidence to support arguments that the driver is a good person with a dependency issue or other such arguments for leniency.