A judge in rural Ravalli County in northwestern Montana recently sent a message to a state that, among other notorieties, saw a local representative try to repeal DUI laws this year.
Judge James Haynes sentenced Scott Adams, a 40 year-old Montana resident, to 15 years in state prison after Adams was convicted of driving under the influence for the sixth time.
Adams, who lives in Stevensville, Montana, has previously received three probationary sentences for his drinking and driving habits. The judge revoked these sentences when he issued his final decree.
According to The Missoulian, Adams’ sixth DUI charge violated three probationary sentences stemming from previous drunk driving incidents.
The first sentence was due to a 2005 incident in which Adams was charged with seven different crimes after a drunk driving accident. He was eventually charged with a felony DUI—his fifth such offense—and received a five-year suspended sentence.
In 2005, Adams also completed a rehabilitation and treatment program.
This incident, however, came on the heels of a 2004 accident in which Adams received another felony DUI charge—his fourth such conviction.
This crime revoked a third probationary sentence he’d received in 1998 after being charged with felony burglary and forgery. This sentence, though, was reduced to misdemeanor theft after Adams agreed to a six-year probationary period.
This long history of criminal behavior came back to haunt Adams after DUI number six. Adams’ own probation officer stated in a report that Adams saw felony probation as “somewhat of a game.”
His probation officer also reported that Adams would not stop drinking and driving until he “hurts or kills someone.” Fortunately, it appears no one was injured in his latest binge, but the judge also felt that Adams posed a serious threat to others.
Adams must serve five years in prison for each of his last three felony DUI charges. In addition, he must serve a year in a detention center for the past theft charges.
The judge saw imprisonment as the only possible method to keep Adams off Montana’s highways.
The dangers of drunk driving have been a hot topic in Montana after a state representative made an impassioned plea earlier this year for the state to repeal its drunk driving laws.
He argued that DUI laws were preventing people from going to local drinking establishments, thereby hurting the local economy.
Alas, this idea never came to pass, but it did stir up some national press coverage, to the chagrin of many Montana residents.
Perhaps the most important rule for people fighting DUI accusations is to be sober when making court appearances. A former sheriff’s deputy in Orange County, California, failed to heed this rule, and will face the consequences.
Allan James Waters, 38, had been facing a likely sentence of 16 months in prison for his conviction on several counts, including a felony DUI and charges that he had illegally tried to obtain prescription medicines.
Waters, however, appeared at his first sentencing hearing with slurred speech and an inability to keep his balance. Waters was then placed in police custody for several weeks after the judge said he was in no condition to be sentenced.
Several weeks later, the judge finally doubled his sentence to 32 months due to Waters’ previous behavior in the courtroom.
A term of Waters’ initial $100,000 bail was that he had to remain sober. After Waters appeared drunk at his initial hearing, the judge ordered him back into police custody and raised his bail to $250,000.
The Los Angeles Times reports that Waters had been involved in a messy accident and had a history of other felony violations.
In April, Waters pled guilty to felony driving under the influence causing bodily injury after an accident involving a serious injury to a 78 year-old woman.
Waters’ legal problems, though, extended beyond the DUI charge. He was also charged with two felony counts of selling a substance in lieu of cocaine and nine felony counts of fraudulently obtaining a controlled substance.
The DUI accident occurred in March 2010 when Waters crashed into the back of a car at a red light. Sources indicate that Waters spoke with other deputies for about 30 minutes after the accident and then promptly left the scene.
The officers’ decision to let Waters leave the scene of the first accident proved to be a mistake.
Later that same day, Waters was still driving under the influence when he swerved into oncoming traffic and struck a vehicle driven by an elderly woman. The impact was so severe that the woman needed back surgery after the accident.
Toxicology reports later revealed that Waters had been under the influence of the prescription drugs zolpidem and hydrocodone.
After the initial traffic collision, Waters’ behavior did not improve. He was cited for trading fake cocaine for prescription drugs and trying to illegally obtain drugs from doctors.
To no one’s surprise, Waters has been relieved of his duties as a sheriff’s deputy.
Michael Penachio was driving his Mercedes Benz over 100 miles per hour down the highway when he crashed into and killed a single mother and journalist, Danielle Baker in 2007.
Penachio was drunk driving down the Eisenhower Expressway in Chicago, Illinois when the avoidable tragedy struck, according to the Chicago Tribune article.
Now Penachio will do his time: 5 years in prison. The DUI sentence comes after several years of plea negotiations that frustrated Baker’s family. Ultimately, however, Penachio pleaded guilty to reckless homicide in exchange for the five-year prison sentence. He could have been sentenced to up to 14 years in prison.
Penachio spoke to the court and to Baker’s family. “Mr. and Mrs. Baker, I’m so sorry for all the pain and sorrow I have brought to your lives. I’m sorry that it has taken this long for you to hear me say it.”
The agreement took so long because a new judge was selected in the case, and then the case was subject to numerous delays.
Penachio sought to get a sentence that didn’t include jail time, so that he could keep his job as a financial broker and maintain the health insurance that helped fund care for his son, who has cerebral palsy.
The father of the victim, Derrick Baker, said that he was glad that this chapter of the ordeal was over, and he accepted Penachio’s apology.
“It meant a lot to me, it really did,” he said. “As I said before, it would be a worse feeling to know that someone had no remorse for their actions, and it did do me a lot of good to hear it. I believe he was sincere. I wish him no harm, and I hope that he is able to move on with his life as well.”
Penachio set aside $54,000 as a part of settled civil suit, as part of a college fund for Danielle Baker’s daughter. She is four years old.
“This will never be over for my daughter,” Baker said. “She will never be back with me, but this part of it is over. I’m glad it’s over. I feel for his family as well, and I hope everybody is just able to heal from this and everyone just gets a chance to move on.”
A Barberton Ohio man received a Sentence for DUI of 16-1/2 years in prison. Jess R Brown was sentenced after pleading guilty to his 19th and 20th DUI offenses. 16-1/2 years is the maximum sentence allowed by Ohio law.
The judge said “Not only do you have the worst DUI record I’ve ever read, you apparently have the worst DUI record for anyone in the state of Ohio. It’s only fair and fitting then that you receive the worst sentence.” Brown was convicted of his first DUI in 1977. His driver’s license was permanently suspended in 1991.
Prior to sentencing, Brown asked the judge for leniency. In his statement to the court he argued “I have a problem with alcohol. Let me get treatment instead of perishing in a cell.” The judge responded that he’d had plenty of opportunities for treatment after previous convictions and if he felt that strongly, he should have sought treatment himself.