A central Missouri prosecutor says he doubts he will seek life imprisonment for a man convicted of being a persistent offender, but he says he could.
Henry County Prosecutor Richard Shields says a jury convicted 44-year-old Joseph Townsend of Deepwater of a Class B driving while intoxicated. Since Townsend has been found to be a prior and persistent felon, state law allows the charge to be bumped up to a Class A felony, which carries a prison sentence ranging from 10 years to life.
Shields says the legislature has moved to make repeat drunk drivers subject to harsh prison time. He says that under the prior statute a person with two or more drunk driving convictions could only be charged with a Class D felony, which carries a maximum prison sentence of four years. Shields says there are a few multiple offenders driving Missouri streets, some with as many as 20 DWI convictions. He says some of worst offenders have lost their driver’s licenses, but still continue to drive.
Shields says it’s important for the public to understand that the legislature has gotten serious about cracking down on drunk drivers and prosecutors will follow through. He says he hasn’t decided on a sentence recommendation in the Townsend case, though he likely will opt for a sentence closer to ten years than life in prison.