Too Many DWI's, Not Enough Punishment

She has only one face, but the records showed multiple names and multiple arrests for Driving While Intoxicated.  The intersection at Fifth Street and Golden in Tyler was back to normal, Monday, after Saturday's five car pile-up--an accident caused by an alleged intoxicated driver.

"Drunk driving kills anyone," said Vicki Knox, executive director of MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving.  "It doesn't matter what you're economic status, your race, or your age is."  Walking through the MADD office, Knox pointed out many framed photos and captions--photos of victims of drunk driving accidents.  She said it's about the faces, young and old--the lives she said have been cut short.

"Forty percent of all fatalities that are caused, are caused by individuals who have a problem, and who have repeat offenses, and those are the people I'm most concerned about," Knox said.

Smith County records show Kathleen Sexton had already pleaded guilty to a prior DWI charge in May of 2005.  And her wrap sheet shows multiple DWI arrests from August 2004, to this past Saturday's offense.  But when it comes to safety on the roadways and repeat offenders, how many DWI's are too many?

"It would be nice if just the number of DWI's, alone, resulted in a felony, but that's not the way the legislature set it out," said Matt Bingham, Smith County District Attorney.  "You have to commit the offense, be arrested, be charged, be convicted, then commit your second offense," he said.

The process then has to be repeated with another arrest, charge, conviction, and third offense.  Bingham said after a third, sequential DWI conviction, offenders will be faced with 3rd degree felony charges, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

And until the law changes, the roadways may not be as safe as we'd like them to be.

Layron Livingston, Reporting.