Last week in Olympia a man convicted of his 7th DUI was sentenced to 1 year in jail, but allowed to serve that time on Work Release in Thurston County, WA. The sentence received by this guy has drawn outrage among many in Olympia due to the sentence he received. Although Im sure most of the backlash has to do with notion he got off because he was rich. As a DUI Attorney in Seattle who has practiced in this court let me tell you why this thinking is flawed.
First of all unless you have read the police report, reviewed all the discovery, interviewed the witnesses, and was privy to the negotiations between the Prosecutor and the Defense Attorney then you have no idea about this case. Simply reading about it in the newspaper does not mean anything.
Let me tell you how things work from the Prosecutors end. They reviewed this case. If they made the offer to this guy then there most likely was severe proof problems. Do you think for one minute that they would ever give someone with 6 prior DUIs a break. Especially in the day in age. The answer is no. So there must have been some proof problems with the DUI in order for the Prosecutors office to offer the reduced plea they did.
Secondly a year in jail is the maximum penalty for a DUI. For all those people saying he should have gotten more. He couldn’t have. A gross misdemeanor. Which is what a DUI is. Carries a max penalty of 364 days in jail and a $5000 fine. A Judge cannot exceed the max penalty it is statutory. Now I get that some are upset because he got work release.
Let me tell you this. Work release is a common program when people are in custody for lengthy periods of time. This was not offered because this guy was rich. Heck I have see homeless people get offered work release, whether they qualified as a different story. But 90% of the people who are doing some serious time in jail get offered work release.
Now the only part of this story I kind of can see why people are getting upset about. Which you can read here. Was this guy was allowed to go see the Super Bowl. Apparently the Judge signed an order modifying his release conditions. Maybe he was on home detention or some sort of daily breath testing. That seemed a little odd to me, but I have no idea what the facts of the case were so I will not hold judgement against the Judge or Prosecutor in this case.
Lastly I want to leave you with this. This guy pleaded guilty as charged to a DUI. It’s not like he got off scott free. He pleaded guilty and is doing the max penalty allowed by law. I don’t see anything wrong with the sentence he received.
About the author: Matthew Leyba is a DUI lawyer in Seattle.