By editorial board • 

Deterring the chronic drunk driver close to impossible

McMinnville resident John Charles Mickler gives new meaning to the term “incorrigible.”

Obviously a habitual drunk, he recently earned his 10th conviction for driving under the influence of intoxicants. As a result, he has earned his third prison term, coupled with at least his third lifetime suspension of driving privileges.

Along the road, he’s racked up a minimum of seven probation violations or revocations, demonstrating compellingly that court-ordered supervision and treatment aren’t going to deter him.

He was so drunk when pulled over April 2 that McMinnville motorcycle officer Steve Macartney called paramedics, fearing alcohol poisoning.

Mickler is only 58, and he’ll be out in less than two years. Given his track record, you can bet he’ll be back to his old habit of getting liquored up, then hitting the road in two tons of high-octane cold-steel menace.

How do we stop potential killers like his? Typically, it seems, only after they cross the line to actual killer, at which point we can put them away for manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide. And even that sometimes fails to do the trick.

Veteran DUII prosecutor Jeff Auxier recalled a case where a drunk driver killed all but one member of an Oregon family on his third DUII, and was out in time to rack up eight more. Auxier said it took stringing together a whole series of misdemeanor sentences consecutively to finally put him back behind bars on a long-term basis.

In 2008, Carlton’s John Cole Carlgren was motoring along Interstate 84 when he wiped out an innocent family in a high-speed rear-ender. He already had three times the legal limit of alcohol at the time, and was in the process of downing another.

It was his fifth DUII. The horrific consequences netted him 43 years, making it also his last.

We hate to think it takes blood on the hands to combat the chronic offender, yet that’s what experience is suggesting.

Oregon makes DUII a felony when repeated three times in 10 years. But the fact Mickler got prison time on his eighth and ninth convictions spaced them out far enough to limit his 10th to misdemeanor status, so he only got 22 months this time, compared to 40.

In cases like his, there’s no basis for ordering use of an interlock either, because he’s not even supposed to be driving sober. Sadly, that fact leaves us short of good ideas.

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