While federal law may be uniform throughout America, state law varies widely. What is legal in one state could be illegal in another. For example, recreational marijuana usage is permitted in some states like Colorado and Washington, but illegal in others like Georgia and Arizona. Likewise, the punishments for crimes vary widely from state to state. While one state has a relatively lenient sentencing scheme for a particular crime, another may treat that same offense much more harshly. The wide variation in state law is particularly stark in the case of a Louisiana man who was convicted of his fourth DUI offense. While in a state like Georgia the maximum penalty is five years in prison, this individual was given the unduly harsh sentence of twenty-five years in prison without the possibility of parole.
The case, State v. Traylor, was recently upheld by the Louisiana Court of Appeals. The facts of the case are as follows: the defendant, Mr. Traylor, was arrested after getting into his vehicle. Traylor started the car and the brake lights came on, but he had not moved said vehicle when officers, who had been watching him and his passenger, approached the car and asked Traylor to exit the vehicle. Traylor admitted he had been drinking, did not do well on the field sobriety tests and was subsequently arrested. His BAC was later found to be 0.27.
A jury found Traylor guilty of a fourth DUI offense and the trial court sentenced him to “serve 25 years at hard labor without the benefit of parole, probation or suspension of sentence and pay a fine of $5,000.”
On appeal Traylor made several arguments including that “the state failed to prove that he was operating his vehicle when contacted by police,” that the “trial court erred in removing a juror once the jury had been impaneled,” and that “the trial court erred in imposing an excessive sentence.” The appellate court did not find the first two arguments compelling.
On the third point, the court stated that since the defendant had not filed a motion to reconsider the sentence it could only consider “the bare claim of constitutional excessiveness.” The court continued, “[u]nder this type of review, a sentence can be excessive, even when it falls within the statutory guidelines, if the punishment is so grossly disproportionate to the severity of the crime that it shocks the sense of justice and serves no purpose other than to inflict pain and suffering.” In order to set aside the sentence, the appellate court would have to find that the trial court abused its discretion.
The potential sentencing range for a defendant in Traylor's situation, where as part of his third DUI conviction he had to participate in substance abuse treatment, was between 10- 30 years, “with at least 3 years imposed without the benefit of parole, probation or suspension of sentence.” The court pointed out that the trial court had noted several factors in reaching its sentence such as that he had more than four DUI offenses (Louisiana's look back period is 10 years), that he had performed poorly on probation before, and that he was not remorseful for his actions. Accordingly, the appellate court agreed that the sentence “certainly falls on the upper end of the sentencing range” for a fourth DUI, “the sentence imposed, although harsh, does not shock the sense of justice.” The court then affirmed both Traylor's sentence and conviction.
While Georgia does increase the penalty for each subsequent DUI offense, the maximum sentence for a fourth DUI in the state is not nearly as harsh, though it is still significant. The most prison time a person could get in Georgia for a fourth driving under the influence conviction within ten years is five years behind bars. Again, while this is less than Louisiana, it is still a lengthy amount of time.
A DUI charge, whether the first offense or the fourth, should never be taken lightly. The experienced and knowledgeable Georgia DUI attorneys can help you if you have been accuse of driving while impaired. You can contact our office today for a free case evaluation by calling (404) 816-4440 or by filling out our online contact form.