Sunday, June 13, 2004

Judge's discretion has guidelines


DUI penalties range from fine to prison time

By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer

At a Saturday morning press conference, University of Cincinnati basketball coach Bob Huggins assumed responsibility for actions that led to his arrest in Fairfax last week on charges of driving under the influence.

HUGGINS ARRESTED
[img]
UC puts Huggins on leave with pay
Tape implies prior Huggins stop
Judge's discretion has guidelines
Bearcats lose their identity
Stress, crises took toll on coach
UC not worried about NCAA
Bearcats of seasons past standing by their mentor
Goin statement

RELATED LINKS
Video icon Saturday news conference
Video icon Police in-cruiser video of Huggins being pulled over
Video icon Video of Huggins' Friday news conference
Daugherty: DUI is a blessing for Huggins
View the police report

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS
Whether Huggins, 50, assumes responsibility for that particular charge in court, or pleads to a lesser charge, the array of possible penalties goes from fines to jail time..

"I totally accept that I made a mistake," he said. "My wish and my hope is that I can complete and do what it is that's asked of me so that I can go back and be with my players."

Hamilton County Prosecutor Mike Allen said about 95 percent of first-time DUI offenders settle their cases with a plea bargain, and many are allowed to plead to a less serious charge.

Penalties associated with first-time offenders convicted of driving under the influence have increased over the past decade. Groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving have won support for increasingly harsh "minimum mandatory" penalties from the state legislature. Judges still have discretion when sentencing first-time offenders of DUI, but there are mandatory minimum guidelines:

• Jail: A minimum of three days and a maximum of 180 days. As an alternative to jail, offenders can be sentenced to a "driver intervention program," in which they spend three days and two nights at Talbert House learning about traffic safety, alcoholism and drug use.

• License suspension: A minimum of six months and a maximum of three years. A judge can allow limited driving privileges for things such as work, church, school or doctor visits. Suspects who refuse to take a breath test or roadside sobriety tests automatically lose their licenses for one year, regardless of the outcome in court, in what is called an "administrative license suspension."

Police reports say Huggins tried and failed to take the breath test, forcing officers to say in the police report that he "refused" to take the test. It is unclear if Huggins will lose his license under the administrative suspension.

• Fine: A minimum of $200 and a maximum of $1,000.

• Points: Six points on an offender's driving record. Accumulation of 12 points in a two-year period means a six-month suspension of driving privileges.

• Probation: No minimum probationary period is required by law, but judges may give up to five years of probation.

• Restricted license plates: These yellow plates with red letters are required for anyone who is convicted but gets limited driving privileges.

Other expenses are also associated with a DUI conviction, such as court and probation costs and insurance premium increases.

Charles Strain, a Cincinnati defense attorney who specializes in DUI cases, said an offender's problems don't end there.

"A DUI conviction can be a career ender," Strain said. "That's true for high-profile people, but also for anyone, especially if driving a company car is involved."

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E-mail dklepal@enquirer.com




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