They get drunk, they drive, they get arrested and punished — in one case as many as 17 times. But it doesn’t stop them from doing it again.
The arrest last week of a man facing his seventh DUI charge outraged a judge, who called the man “an extreme danger to Broward County.” It has some asking what it takes to get such people off the roads.
Joseph Cascioli, 51, appeared last week before Broward County Judge John “Jay” Hurley, who ordered him held on a $128,100 bond. But Cascioli’s record pales next to that of Jose L. Diaz, charged 10 times in South Florida and seven times in Texas, according to the Broward County State Attorney’s Office. Both men remained in jail as of late Friday.
Cascioli served a 20-month term in 2003 after his third offense. Details of Diaz’s prison term in Texas were not available. But if putting them behind bars was meant to send these offenders a message, it apparently did not work. It doesn’t work for a lot of people.
According to the State Attorney’s Office, more than 50 current and recently convicted defendants had at least three prior DUI convictions but still got behind the wheel and were arrested again after having had too much to drink.
The number was comparable in Palm Beach County, which is currently prosecuting 22 drivers with at least three prior DUI convictions. Last year, 16 people were convicted on their fourth offense. In 2010, it was 13.
“They have a blatant disregard for our laws,” Assistant Broward State Attorney Melissa Steinberg said, “and nothing we’ve done in the past has stopped them.”
Mario L., a spokesman for the Alcoholics Anonymous service area that covers South Florida, said recidivists lose control of their ability to prevent themselves from repeating the same destructive behavior.
“Throwing a person in jail over and over again isn’t going to do any good,” he said. “He’s going to get out and have a beer.”
The AA volunteer, who declined to give his last name, citing the organization’s philosophy, said punishment is appropriate but ineffective in the long run unless treatment is part of the rehabilitative plan.
Florida law allows for prison terms of up to five years for anyone on his third DUI offense in a 10-year period.
Cascioli faces 17 years if convicted this time around. Diaz faces 20.
Diaz, 57, racked up the offenses — allegedly under different names — in South Florida and Texas, and Broward prosecutors are still working to piece together his complete history of driving under the influence.
Typically, drivers on their fourth offense have lost their driving privileges for a maximum of 11 years.
Diaz managed to get a license in Florida despite his previous convictions by fudging his identification, Steinberg said. He was originally charged with a misdemeanor in Oakland Park, where officials were unaware of his tainted driving history. He refused a Breathalyzer test.
Last year, prosecutors realized his fingerprints matched those of a Jose L. Diaz with a different date of birth, as well those of a driver who went by the name of Silvestre Diaz.
Diaz’s license was immediately revoked and his misdemeanor charge upgraded to a third-degree felony. Because he is categorized as a habitual offender, he could face a maximum of 10 years in prison for DUI and another 10 years for driving with a suspended license.
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