The attorney for an Oakmont man convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol — for the 19th time — contends his client was unfairly targeted by a DUI task force.

Steven Weiss, attorney for William Beall, 65, says the members of Sonoma County's DUI task force, who arrested him for having alcohol in his house, set out "with the idea of getting him back in custody and not with the idea of being fair to him .<TH>.<TH>."

Being fair to him? The guy has been found guilty of driving under the influence <i>19 times.</i> And yet he was allowed to remain free on bail until Jan. 21, On that day, he was to learn whether his most recent conviction would result in a six-month jail sentence or treatment. It seems to us that the justice system has been more than fair to Beall, at the risk of being horrendously unfair to anyone who could have been hurt or killed by the man's reckless disregard for the importance of being sober while operating a car.

Santa Rosa police and county probation officers came knocking on Beall's door 48 hours after he was allowed to remain free awaiting sentencing on DUI No. 19. Beall knew that as a condition of his probation he would be subject to such unannounced visits and searches. He also knew he was not allowed to have alcohol in the house.

Nevertheless, police say Beall was found with an unopened bottle of wine in the refrigerator and three small, unopened bottles of Irish cream and tequila. He was arrested again and now faces three years in prison.

Weiss claims there are reasonable explanations for how Beall ended up with those bottles. He argues that Beall couldn't throw them away because his trash was also subject to search and says arrangements had been made for someone to take them.

We understand that Weiss is just doing his job, protecting the interests of his client. But we find these excuses pretty feeble. (There are such things as public trash cans, for example. He had a 48-hour head start, for Pete's sake.)

To us, this is evidence not of overly aggressive police work but of a man who, after 19 convictions, still doesn't get it. No alcohol means no alcohol.

More important, it's a case study of the shortcomings of DUI laws when it comes to chronic offenders. Recent county statistics show that for about 75 percent of people, one DUI conviction is enough. They won't get a second. For the rest, multiple DUIs often doesn't motivate them to stop.

And for all the publicity and talk about the dangers of drunken driving, an estimated 10,000 to 12,000 people will die this year in U.S. accidents involving intoxicated drivers.

If anything is unfair, it's that.

Don't drink and drive this holiday — or any other time.