Why an Idaho man charged with 7 DUIs still had his license

Authorities say 54 year old Paul Hendzel has been arrested seven times for drinking and driving. KREM 2's Alexa Block has the story.

SPOKANE, Wash. --- A man has recently been arrested for his seventh DUI.

KREM 2 viewers reached out and asked why a person with so many DUIs could still be out on the road.

In the most recent drunk driving incident, Paul Hendzel, 54, is accused of driving through his neighbor’s lawn while intoxicated.



KREM 2 talked to law enforcement officials to find out how someone with seven DUIs is not facing harsher punishments.

KREM 2 learned that Hendzel did have a valid license, and it was legal for him to drive.

Lieutenant Stu Miller of the Kootenai County Sheriff's Office, said the reason he is still out on the road, is because Hendzel has actually never been convicted of a felony DUI.

Two of Hendzel’s prior felony charges were knocked down to misdemeanors.

A DUI felony has a maximum sentence of five years in jail and a $5,000 fine.

However, Miller said the longest jail stint Hendzel has done, was only 40 days.

Hendzel’s last DUI charges were three years ago, and he had already paid the fines for the charge.

“The courts are trying to adjudicate these cases as fast as they can because they have so many of them. And unfortunately there are people that fall through the cracks,” said Miller.

Miller added, sentencing decisions are left to judges and there is no minimum jail sentence that is required by law for a DUI.

“I would probably start with putting a mandatory minimum sentence for repeat offenders,” said Miller.

Idaho State Representative Vito Barbieri said sentencing should be left up to the judges

“I'm a big proponent of judicial discretion and the question in this case has that discretion been abused, I don't know but mandatory minimums take away the court's ability to look and make an appropriate decision,” said Barbieri.

Barbieri said he would like the focus to be on rehabilitation and support.

There is a differing opinions on how repeat DUI offenders should be sentenced.

People agree, keeping drunk drivers off the road is what matters most.

"Our concern is that this person is going to get out, and based on his history, that's he's going to do it again until somebody gets hurt,” said Miller.

Hendzel made his first appearance in court on Monday.

Hendzel is currently booked in the Kootenai County Jail.

(© 2016 KREM)


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