A stiff sentence for drunk driver

A Bainbridge Island man was sentenced to 20 months in prison Thursday under a tough new law aimed at chronic drunk drivers.

Todd Ryan Duffner, 22, was the first to be charged under the law, by which DUIs become felonies if the driver has been convicted of four such offenses in 10 years or has a vehicular assault charge on their record, Kitsap County Deputy Prosecutor Jeff Jahns said.

Earlier this month, Duffner pleaded guilty in Kitsap Superior Court to intoxicated driving stemming from a September automobile wreck on the island.

In 2005, he pleaded guilty to vehicular assault while drunk after hitting and severely injuring Bainbridge bicyclist Ernie Franz on High School Road. Duffner served six months in jail for that offense.

The felony DUI conviction carries a sentencing range of 15 to 20 months, and Jahns said prosecutors requested the maximum sentence for Duffner.

Previously, judges were only allowed to hand down sentences of up to one year for a DUI, regardless of prior convictions.

That allowed offenders with 10 or 12 DUIs on their record to stay out of prison, Jahns said. He hopes multiple offenders will take notice of the harsher penalties.

“People who have these prior offenses will be put on notice that if they get another DUI, they’ll be looking at prison time,” Jahns said.

According to Jahns, eight Kitsap County residents have been charged with a felony DUI since the law took effect last July.

Duffner will be held at a correctional facility in Shelton temporarily until a venue is decided on for his sentence.

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