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COURSEY: Delivering a message on repeat drunken driving

Let's all raise a toast to Mendocino County Deputy District Attorney Matt Hubley, who's pushing the envelope of the criminal justice system in his efforts to put a serial drunken driver behind bars and prevent her from ever driving again.

Hear, hear!

The only problem with the case against Joan Ellen Rainville is that it's "outside the box," as one DUI defense attorney put it, and "innovative," in the words of Santa Rosa defense lawyer Chris Andrian.

This should be the norm in cases like this.

Rainville, according to Mary Callahan's story on Thursday's Page 1, is not your run-of-the-mill drunken driver. When the 53-year-old Ukiah woman piloted her car through a neighbor's fence, across the yard – where the neighbors and a few guests were gathered – and slammed it into the side of their house, she had a blood-alcohol level of more than three times the legal limit, prosecutors said. If that's true, the incident on Memorial Day weekend was her second vehicle crash under the influence this year, and her fifth drunken-driving offense since 1996, according to Hubley. In the majority of those cases, her blood-alcohol level was at least three times the limit of .08 percent.

Imagine how many times in the past 17 years she didn't get caught.

In the normal course of events – since no one got hurt or killed – Rainville would be charged with misdemeanor drunken driving in this latest case. A person with four drunken driving offenses can be charged with a felony, but those four have to have occurred within the last 10 years. Rainville's first two were in 1996 and 2001, so they don't count toward a felony charge this time.

Rainville has had the book thrown at her before. When she took that drive through the fence last month, she was on probation for the previous crash, had a suspended driver's license and was supposed to have an ignition interlock device on her Toyota Camry that would have prevented her from starting the car with alcohol in her system.

So we know how well that worked.

Unfortunately, we hear about these cases all too often. The roads are peppered with repeat drunken drivers who don't care that they are on probation, prohibited from drinking and prohibited from driving. They don't care that they face fines and jail time. They don't care that they put the lives of others at risk. They care about that next drink, and the rest be damned.

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