Connecticut Wrestles with Repeat DUI Laws
By: Mary Ann Pekara
Sandra Lee Jacobson did not let tickets, probation or a suspended license keep her from getting behind the wheel of her car with a blood-alcohol level that was double the legal limit.
It didn’t matter that those punishments were already the result of a drunk driving arrest. Sandra Lee Jacobson killed two people when she crashed into them while behind the wheel while driving on a Colorado highway.
It was a year ago that she killed two librarians from Old Greenwich, Connecticut, and the Greenwich Time brought up the question in a recent article: How can these tragedies be prevented in the future? Where should they draw the line when criminals have already been punished, but it isn’t enough to stop them from breaking the law again?
The answer from Connecticut lawyers and lawmakers was“grim.” According to the Greenwich Times, lawmakers feel there isn't much that can stop a repeat drunk driver who is determined to get behind the wheel while intoxicated despite laws in place in the Stamford, Connecticut, judicial district—which includes Greenwich—that are stronger than they used to be, and despite higher levels of advocacy speaking out against drunk driving.
Most of the criminal cases involving death in the Stamford district are the result of drunk driving accidents. “Everybody here does the most they can,” said Senior Assistant State’s Attorney Joseph Valdes. “But at the end of the day, we really can’t control human beings. If someone’s license is suspended and they want to get in a car and drink and drive, there’s not much we can do.”
The news wires across the country are filled with accounts of repeat DUI offenders who cause accidents, get arrested, and kill other innocent drivers and pedestrians and damage property. Greenwich is not much different from many places in that respect.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving, of course, argue that ignition-interlock devices are one way to try and crack down on repeat DUI offenders. Janice Heggie Margolis, the director of the Connecticut chapter, believes that such a device could have prevented the Jacobson accident.
The case of Jacobson, who killed Kathleen Krasniewicz and Kate McClelland when she was drunk driving, is a study in the sort of frustrating repeat offenses that people like Joseph Valdes are trying to stop before other innocent people get hurt or killed.
According to the Greenwich Times, it took Jacobson just seven years to rack up seven major traffic violations for offenses like speeding and careless driving. In 2006 she was convicted of DUI, and in 2007 she was charged with careless driving causing bodily injury when she ran a red light and got into an accident that resulted in a man sustaining a broken pelvis.
She was put on probation for two years for the first DUI conviction, but records indicate that she didn’t fulfill the obligations of much of the probation. She allegedly drank and did drugs, and she even received a fine for keeping a pet tiger in her home.
Nonetheless, she was on the road, behind the wheel, and bad things happened. The families of the victims expressed disbelief that such a thing could come to pass. “It is incomprehensible to us how Ms. Jacobson could have been on the roadway,” said McClelland’s children in a statement.
Sadly, Jacobson’s case is not entirely uncommon. People from a variety of backgrounds have caused accidents and deaths as repeat DUI offenders.
Valdes, however, did stress that cases like Jacobson’s are more the exception than the rule, and that some laws have had a deterrent effect. “A lot of people don’t drink and drive,” he said. “DUI deaths have gone down, so the law is working from a deterrent point of view.”