The judge asked one woman several key questions Tuesday before he sentenced her for her fourth DUI and seventh conviction for driving with a suspended license.
“Do they feed you there?” he asked, referring to the nursing home she’s resided in for the last three months.
The reason for that question became clear as he sentenced her to spend the next five years at a nursing home, leaving only for doctors’ appointments, as a term of her community control and probation.
To ensure her compliance, the judge sentenced her to five years in prison but suspended imposition of the sentence unless she violates the terms of her probation. He also ordered that she be fitted with an electronic monitoring device so probation officers know where she is at all times.
“You will not leave that facility,” he said. He warned her not to drive or commit any violation of her probation. “I will not hesitate to impose the suspended sentence if you willfully violate (probation). There’s nobody that can save you.”
The 48-year-old woman was arrested Dec. 17 after apparently driving her car into a ditch. The prosecutor described her as “wasted” at the time of the crash. He said she’d taken three prescription medications, including Valium and Loritab, that morning before going to the grocery story to get aspirin for her husband.
The judge asked her what warning was written on those pill bottles.
“Do not drive,” she answered.
The prosecutor said people at the grocery store on Dec. 17 were so concerned about her driving that they tried to snatch the keys out of the ignition before she drove off.
The judge looked over her record and asked whether this was her fourth or fifth DUI conviction. The prosecutor said there were DUI arrests going back to 1984, but he’d only included the most recent to legally move her current charge to felony DUI.
The woman claimed that prison would be a death sentence for her and submitted a list of her physical and mental problems for him to consider.
She said her perspective had changed as recently as Saturday, when the nursing home gave away school supplies to a group of children.
“It changed my world upside down,” she said of looking at the children. “I could have hurt somebody (by drinking and driving).” For more, read the story.
Robert W. Carter, Jr. is a Virginia attorney whose law practice is dedicated to protecting the rights of the victims of nursing home and assisted living neglect and abuse in Richmond, Roanoke, Norfolk, Lynchburg, Danville, Charlottesville, and across Virginia.