It is not common that a judge exceeds the state’s sentencing guidelines in a drunk driving case. After all, the law requires that if it happens, it will need to be answered for. But obviously Hillsdale County Circuit Court Judge Mike Smith felt that the situation warranted serious intervention in this case. And while it is not surprising given the circumstances, it is still disheartening.
34-year-old Brandin Duryea, a resident of Moscow Township, was recently sentenced to spend 40 to 60 months in prison for a single count of operating while intoxicated. If that seems a little high, then one must take into account the fact that this is Duryea’s third DUI conviction. Which means that this time, it’s a felony.
But even then, 40 to 60 months seems high, doesn’t it? Well, the state’s sentencing guideline for a third DUI offense is 12 to 24 months of incarceration. So what happened here? Surely there must be more to the story. There is. A lot more.
Judge Smith spent some time reviewing Duryea’s criminal history, which is considerable, and summed it up in one word. “Ridiculous!”. In addition to multiple juvenile convictions totaling seven felonies and three misdemeanors, his adult record is extensive, and contains a total of twelve misdemeanors and nine felonies.
Duryea was either charged with or convicted of retail fraud, minor in possession of alcohol, breaking and entering, and receiving stolen property, along with a host of other crimes, all before his eighteenth birthday. And all of his time spent behind bars as a teenager doesn’t seem to have done him any good when it comes to personal reformation.
As an adult his record includes multiple DUI charges, oxycodone possession, driving on a suspended license, entry without permission, larceny of firearms, and numerous others. In addition to this rather inglorious criminal past, the Judge also noted that at the time of his arrest, Duryea was on probation from three separate courts around the state.
But while this is only the third DUI arrest, it is actually the seventh alcohol-related offense on his record. And, as if this isn’t complex enough, there is the fact that Duryea’s record included a court-ordered alcohol rehabilitation program that he had not completed.
Duryea plead guilty to the charge of felony DUI, but only because his plea came as part of an agreement that dismissed accompanying charges for an improper license plate and having an open intoxicant in the vehicle with him.
Judge Smith explained to Duryea that he had a “serious substance abuse problem” that he refused to address, and also pointed out that the sentencing guidelines don’t adequately address the kind of criminal history that Duryea has. So, for those reasons, the Judge was choosing to send him to prison for what might amount to a total of five years, if he serves the full maximum sentence.
Judges will sometimes do this to get the attention, not only of the defendant, but also the community. As attorneys, we find the more “damage control” a defendant can do (programs, rehab, classes, AA, etc.) the less likely a judge is to go above and beyond the state sentencing guidelines. If you are charged with any type of alcohol-related offense, get an attorney involved immediately. It could mean the difference between time behind bars and your freedom.