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Archive for Monday, October 13, 2008

Driver with long record of DUIs may keep license

Two of four convictions no longer on books; latest charge involves fatalities

October 13, 2008

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— A man with four convictions for driving under the influence might not permanently lose his license even if he is convicted a fifth time for an accident that killed a Wichita woman and her 4-year-old daughter.

Gary Hammitt is charged with two counts of second-degree murder and driving under the influence after an Oct. 1 accident that killed Claudia Mijares, 37, and her daughter, Gisele, as they walked to the girl's preschool.

Police say Hammitt, 54, was under the influence and speeding when the accident happened. He is being held in the Sedgwick County Jail under a $1 million bond.

But because of the way state law is applied by the Division of Motor Vehicles, even if Hammitt is convicted of drunken driving in the crash, he would have to be caught driving under the influence two more times before the state could permanently revoke his license.

Hammitt's criminal record goes back 34 years and includes four previous DUI convictions. He also was charged but not convicted in a fifth DUI case in 1983. And in 1994, he refused to take an alcohol test after a hit-and-run injury accident, a police report said.

But because of the way the state applies the law, only two of Hammitt's four DUI convictions count against him.

A 2001 state law says that a person will permanently lose his or her license after a fifth "alcohol occurrence," which includes a conviction for DUI or failing or refusing to take an alcohol test.

But the state's driver's license database goes back only to 1996. Before the law went into effect, the Division of Motor Vehicles purged DUI conviction records after five years because there was no requirement to keep them and because of computer-system and record-storage limitations, said Marcy Ralston, chief of the state's Driver Control Bureau.

Because of that procedure, only Hammitt's convictions in 1998 and 2005 count toward a permanent revocation, she said. His 1979 conviction and 1986 conviction don't count, even though local courts have records of them.

The case has some officials wanting the law changed.

Mary Ann Khoury, president of Wichita-based DUI Victim Center of Kansas, said, "It seems to me that this system that one DUI (conviction) is counted and another is not is wrong."

State Sen. Phil Journey, R-Haysville, said he would support a change so courts could forward a certified document outlining convictions against a person to the state agency that administers driver's licenses.

Such a document would allow the Division of Motor Vehicles to start counting DUI convictions and "alcohol occurrences" before 1996, Journey said.

One issue that could arise if the state began using older records is that municipal courts retain records in various ways, meaning what happens to people's licenses could depend partly on how well their city court keeps DUI records.

Khoury said the law should be changed so that any DUI conviction occurring during a person's life counts against them. Three occurrences, not five, should be enough, she said.

While some people might argue that a 30-year-old conviction shouldn't hurt someone's driving privileges, it is relevant when it is part of a pattern of behavior that continues over decades, Khoury said.

The Division of Motor Vehicles said it couldn't immediately provide the number of times that a lifetime revocation has occurred.

Comments

mom_of_three 6 years, 2 months ago

I think if you kill someone with your car, your license should be gone. And if you are caught driving without it (when you are not in jail, serving your time), then you should go back to jail.

acg 6 years, 2 months ago

I agree zzgoeb. There needs to be real deterrents to bad behavior. If the people see that these offenses don't mean a hill of beans, then what's to stop them from driving drunk? You're already a bit "bullet proof" when drinking and everyone thinks they can make it those few miles with no problems. If you add the fact that it's basically BS offense in, then where's the deterrent? If you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt that you will go to jail and lose your license immediately if you're busted driving drunk maybe it would help people make better decisions.

yankeevet 6 years, 2 months ago

Drinking and driving just does not mix..............

Confrontation 6 years, 2 months ago

He needs to lose his license for good. If he keeps driving, cut off his legs. He shouldn't ever be back on the streets after killing people.

tunahelper 6 years, 2 months ago

He was also the local omaba kingpin in wichita. stupid drunk, this is why we need to reinstate the death penalty.

Adrienne Sanders 6 years, 2 months ago

If someone's been driving drunk since 1983, they're not going to stop, even if you take their license away.

John Hamm 6 years, 2 months ago

kidicarus, who do you think writes the laws?

kidicarus 6 years, 2 months ago

"FMT6488 (Anonymous) says: This an example of why I dislike lawyers - everything must be written down, perfectly explained, with complete definitions for every word, object, instance, example,etc. before it can be correctly applied as law. Even then, once all the possible loopholes have been worked out(if that ever happens - which is extremely rare), somehow the intent behind putting the law into place is lost.Law has nothing to do with "common sense" and everything to do with herding cats."Could you please explain what lawyers had to do with this one? Seems the problem is the state didn't keep records of prior DUI's until a certain point in time. If anything, be mad at the state and the state legislature - you know, the ones who actually write the laws.

q_ball2kand1 6 years, 2 months ago

It takes FIVE?! I wonder how many times this guy drove drunk without getting caught. People don't change their behavior. I saw hit n' run Jake out bar-hopping Friday night, hope he caught a taxi home.

FMT6488 6 years, 2 months ago

This an example of why I dislike lawyers - EVERYTHING must be written down, perfectly explained, with complete definitions for every word, object, instance, example,etc. before it can be correctly applied as law. Even then, once all the possible loopholes have been worked out(if that ever happens - which is extremely rare), somehow the intent behind putting the law into place is lost. Law has nothing to do with "common sense" and everything to do with herding cats.

compmd 6 years, 2 months ago

I have no sympathy for drunk drivers. Its really a shame that more don't manage to kill themselves.

notajayhawk 6 years, 2 months ago

Okay, a question:Since we obviously know about the other offenses prior to 1996, who the heck cares which particular database they're in?

zzgoeb 6 years, 2 months ago

Losers like this guy make two things obvious; our system is broken, and we should build prisons JUST for drunk drivers!!! I think one DUI is too many. If we would stop plea bargaining for these cases, and lock these people up, it would soon have a chilling effect on the general population. If and when said offenders are released, we now have the needed ridership to help make mass transit profitable. Most countries in northern and western Europe use exactly the system I have just described. What are we waiting for?!

Flap Doodle 6 years, 2 months ago

If he was in the cross-bar hotel, he wouldn't be driving.

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