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Repeat offenders get jail time in Montana, Idaho DUI cases

Recent sentencing in DUI cases across the country shows a trend toward more jail time for repeat offenders.

Last week, there are two reports of women receiving 1 year and 1-8 years in jail for repeat offenses. The first woman, 49-year-old Shauna Marie Cudney, was sentenced to 13 months in jail and 3 years probation for repeat DUI offenses in Montana. This is the maximum penalty for a Montana felony DUI in this case.

Reports indicate this recent arrest was Cudney’s 8th DUI charge. The first 5 charges, however, took place in Oregon stretching back beyond 10 years. This was Cudney’s third charge in the state of Montana. Adding to the sentencing was .226% BAC Cudney showed on a breath test during her most recent arrest.

A similar report comes out of Naples, Idaho, where 46-year-old Mary Diane Fisher will face 1-8 years for her 5th DUI offense in Idaho in 6 years. Fisher was facing a possible 5 years to life sentence for her arrests; 4 of the 5 DUI arrests occurred while she was on probation for a previous violation.

Fisher was first arrested in 2002, then again 6 months later. She was subsequently arrested and charged with felony DUI. She served a prison sentence and attended a rehabilitation program. She was arrested a final time in 2007 before allegedly reforming through a church’s 12-step program. Unfortunately, Fisher relapsed later in 2007. 

Calls for greater sentencing and life-long license revocations for repeat DUI offenders are populating public debate. This is mostly owing to the fact statistics show repeat offenders are more dangerous than first-time offenders. Further, many question how a person with 8 or 5 DUI offenses can be permitted to continue driving despite a lack of signs he or she is reformed.

The sentencing of these two women, Cudney receiving the maximum, points to the fact judges are responding to the concerns. These two stories also highlight another problematic trend: at the same time DUIs among male drivers are dropping drastically, those among female drivers are rising sharply.

There is little research to explain the rise in female DUIs. Many believe the convictions are occurring because lower BAC limits unfairly target women who process alcohol differently and may need different partition ratio standards.

Ultimately, both male and female repeat offenders should expect hard jail time in most states. For this reason, it may no longer make sense to plead guilty to a first-offense DUI if the penalty is very small. This conviction can stay on your record up to 10 years, and it may be used against you in another state even if DUI laws differ there.

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