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Suspensions don't deter W.Va. driver

July 08, 1999|By BRYN MICKLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A man stopped by police early Wednesday had been caught driving on a revoked license five times since January 1995, when a judge originally suspended his license for driving under the influence, according to court records.

The arrest illustrates a problem that is becoming more commonplace in Berkeley County, according to Berkeley County Prosecutor Pamela Games-Neely.

The maximum sentence for driving on a license revoked for driving under the influence is three years in prison and $5,000, and it doesn't increase after the third conviction, Games-Neely said.

"Anything after three times is irrelevant," she said.

James Patrick Huber, 34, of Kearneysville, W.Va., was charged with felony sixth-offense driving revoked for driving under the influence and misdemeanor charges of speeding and no proof of insurance, according to Berkeley County Magistrate Court records.

He was arrested Wednesday after a Berkeley County Sheriff's deputy stopped a 1980 Datsun for going 62 mph in a 45 mph zone around 4:22 a.m. on W.Va. 901 near Hedgesville, police said.

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The man handed the deputy an identification card and told police he didn't have a driver's license because it had been taken, police alleged.

A computer check of the man's driving record showed he had been convicted of driving under the influence in October 1994, November 1995 and March 1996, according to court records.

The computer check also showed he had been convicted of driving revoked for driving under the influence in January 1995, March 1996, May 1996, August 1996 and March 1997, according to court records.

Without stronger penalties, some people will continue to drive no matter how many times they are arrested, Berkeley County Sheriff's Capt. C.E. Keller said.

"If they want to drive, they're going to drive," Keller said.

Judges are not hesitant to hand out stiff sentences, but crowded prisons increase the likelihood that driving offenders will be released early and sent to halfway houses, Games-Neely said.

Huber was released Wednesday on $3,511 bond and faces a $100 fine if convicted on the speeding charge and a $5,000 fine if found guilty of the no proof of insurance charge, according to court records.

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