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Law enforcement often-insufficient deterrent to drunk drivers

The danger that drunk drivers pose to society has been recognized for as long as automobiles have traveled Ohio roads. There are many statutes, both state and local, that seek to deter drunk driving by imposing various fines and even terms of incarceration on those convicted of the behavior, but these may provide sober drivers with a false sense of security.

Recidivism among drunk drivers remains a serious problem in this state. According to a recent news account, for example, from 2011 to the present Ohio criminal courts convicted more than 100 drivers for repeat drunk driving offenses, including one who had 12 such convictions before being finally sent to prison -- for two years.

The main problem with repeat drunk drivers is that Ohio courts apparently do not do a good job of communicating with one another about past drunk driving convictions. Thus, a drunk driver with a conviction in one jurisdiction may appear before a court in another without the latter court's being aware of the previous conviction, so the temptation exists for that court to "go easy" on the driver as if he was a first-time offender.

And even if a court is aware of prior convictions, the way that the state's law is structured the first three convictions in a six-year period are classified as misdemeanors, which means little if any jail time and thus allows recidivist drunk drivers to be back on the road again in short order.

What this means to you is that unfortunately, your chances of being involved in an accident with a drunk driver are higher than they would be if these drivers were taken off the road sooner under the state's criminal law provisions. In such an event, your main recourse will need to be a civil action to recover damages against the drunk driver for any injuries and property damage he causes to you, or in the worst case scenario to initiate a wrongful death lawsuit if a loved one of yours perishes in such an accident.

Source: ABC22, "Fox 45 INVESTIGATES: Repeat Offenders On Our Roads, How Is That Possible?" 

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