Kansas Man Earns 17th DUI

| by Maura Turcotte

One DUI is a serious offense, but how about 17?

Stephen Gast recently earned his 17th DUI in Leavenworth County, Kansas. The 59-year-old man will only spend one year in jail and will have to pay a fine of $2,500 for his drunk driving conviction. His sentence has many questioning the state’s laws regarding DUIs, reports KAKE.

"It scares me that I'm sharing the road with someone who drives like that," Candice Ulbrich, a resident of the area, told KAKE.

Another resident, Clint Bruce, suggested to the station, "Definitely more prison time, and he should never be able to drive again, obviously."

Yet, as Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett explained to KAKE, the sentence given to Gast was the harshest in the books.

"So when the judge in northeast Kansas gave the guy a one-year sentence and people say, what was that judge thinking. That judge was thinking he threw the book at him," the district attorney said, KAKE reports. "That is the most significant sentence the judge could have given under Kansas law."

Surprisingly, Gast does not fight his charges. As he told KSHB, "When they pull me over I say, ‘Take me to jail.'"

According to county records, Gast has been getting DUIs since 1980 but has never killed or injured anyone. Gast explains that his drinking habits only increased in the 1990s because of his wife’s deteriorating health. She died in 2008, reports KSHB.

In response to cases such as Gast’s, several groups in Kansas are working to create stricter legislation for drunk driving offenses. Proposals include more jail time and a lifetime ignition interlock on vehicles of habitual offenders.

“These people continue to be a danger every time we go on the road, they endanger our families and our friends,” Christopher Mann, a national board director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, told KSHB.

The executive director of the Kansas DUI Impact Center believes harsher sentences are not the solution.

“(I)f we can reach young adults and children before they become habitual and impaired drivers, before they become addicted to alcohol, then we can change our social culture in relation to impaired driving," Andrie Krahl explained to KAKE.

Sources: KAKE, KSHB / Photo credit: Leavenworth police via  KAKE