Driving While Drunk Can get You Years in Prison — or maybe not.

Dateline, Palestine, Texas, December 12, 2013. 45-year old Robert Fitzgerald Clayton of Palestine, Texas will soon begin serving the remainder of a 2010 7-year sentence for a prior DWI, after which he will begin serving a new “stacking order” 20-year sentence for a recent DWI. Clayton failed a field sobriety test that showed that his had a blood-alcohol level 2.5 times the legal limit of .08. Clayton received the maximum possible sentence after he was convicted in September. The Anderson County DA, Doug Lowe, said that Clayton “is a danger and he can’t be controlled on probation or parole”—and for the public’s protection Clayton needed to be locked up for as long as possible.

Meanwhile, compare what happened to Clayton to what happened about 120 miles from Palestine to 16-year old Ethan Couch. Couch was driving his rich daddy’s Ford F-350 pickup in Tarrant County. Couch admitted drinking and had a blood alcohol level of .24, three times the legal limit for an adult. Couch also had Valium in his system. Before ramming the pick-up into two parked cars Couch stole beer from Walmart. Couch killed a stranded driver, a youth minister who had stopped to help the driver, and two other good Samaritans offering assistance. Couch will not serve one day in jail even though the prosecutor tried to get a 20 year sentence. Instead, the judge found excuses for Couch’s “youthful indiscretions” allowing him to get 10-years probation and drug and alcohol counseling at a fancy Southern California facility that will cost his family $450,000 a year. Couch avoided the harsh sentencing Clayton received because of his family’s wealth allowing them to obtain the testimony of a psychologist painting him as a “poor little rich kid” whose parents were too rich to be bothered with raising him—instead giving him everything he wanted. Boo-hoo!!

While Clayton gets ready to put on prison garb and do a long stint for driving while intoxicated—didn’t kill or hurt anybody– Couch will probably get a new set of fancy clothes, fancy electronics, and who knows what all else, to use at his new $450,000 a year drug rehab home.

Should anyone drive drunk? No! Should one man get 20 years for wrecking his Ford Explorer while driving drunk and another gets a slap on the wrist for killing 4 people and hurting seven more while driving a Ford F-350. Of course, all across Texas and America these type disparate sentences happen every day. A recent “The Nation” article reported on the criminalization of America saying that more Americans are locked up than in any other country on the planet—including the most repressive of regimes. But who gets locked up is where the rubber meets the road. If you are poor, black or brown, you might want to plan to spend some time in some type of jail or prison during your lifetime. The Nation’s article said that America is becoming a police state in which the likelihood of being locked up for some type of infraction is on the rise—including sending non-paying tenants to court for criminal prosecution. But for some, such as all the crooks who took the country to the economic brink of disaster during the “great Wall Street robbery of 2008,” no jail for the rich. Instead they got bailed out and given golden parachutes worth billions. Ain’t American grand?

Copyright 2013 – L. Arthalia Cravin. All rights Reserved. No part of this commentary may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the author.

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