Saturday, June 10, 2000

DUI repeater wins break

Court orders lighter sentence for man whose case led to tougher Ohio law

By Dan Horn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        An appeals court ordered a lighter sentence Friday for the man whose arrest last year prompted a tough new drunken driving law.

        Gregory Roy, who was sentenced to 41/2 years in prison, will now return to court seeking to slash up to three years from his jail term.

        The Cincinnati man became the focus of a statewide debate last year when prosecutors cited his case as proof that Ohio needed stiffer penalties for driving under the influence.

        Mr. Roy, 43, had 14 DUI arrests on his record — most resulted in convictions — when he was charged last year with a new violation.

        At the time of his arrest, police recorded his blood-alcohol level at .336 — more than three times the legal limit.

        In a decision Friday, the Ohio 1st District Court of Appeals found that Mr. Roy's 41/2-year sentence was too long.

        The court ruled that Mr. Roy's judge, Ann Marie Tracey, made a mistake when she sentenced him to three years for two probation violations and another 11/2 years for his most recent charge.

        But the court also noted that the judge's mistake was understandable considering Ohio's confusing DUI laws.

        “The frequent legislative changes to the felony statutes ... have created a scheme of Byzantine complexity,” wrote Judge Robert Gorman, who wrote the appellate decision.

        “Determining what constitutes the longest possible period of incarceration is a problem for judges and lawyers alike.”

        He said the problem in Mr. Roy's case is that Ohio law last year did not allow Judge Tracey to impose consecutive sentences for the probation violations and for the new offense.

        Prosecutor Mike Allen said the appeals court decision shows why Ohio law needed to change.

        Along with Ohio Sen. Bruce Johnson, R-Columbus, Mr. Allen proposed legislation to increase the maximum penalty for repeat DUI offenders from 18 months to five years. The law was approved last fall.

        Mr. Allen said the dilemma that faced Judge Tracey would not have been an issue if the new law had been in effect when Mr. Roy was sentenced last year.

        He said the new law makes clear all the sentencing options, including the five-year maximum for repeat offenders.

        “This is an individual that needs to be incarcerated,” Mr. Allen said of Mr. Roy.

        Mr. Roy's attorney, Jon Dameron, said the appeals court made the right decision Friday. He said his client has vowed to change his ways once he is freed from prison. “He says he'll make his best effort not to drink,” Mr. Dameron said.


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