Repeat drunken driver gets five-year prison term
WAILUKU — A “recidivist drunk driver” with four DUI convictions in five years was sentenced Wednesday to a five-year prison term.
Eddie Rodriguez, 35, of Kihei was arrested for his most recent DUI when he “slammed his vehicle into the rear of another car on South Kihei Road” at 11 a.m. June 7, 2016, said Deputy Prosecutor Lyle Keanini.
He said a 40-ounce container of beer was found open and half empty in Rodriguez’s car.
Police reported Rodriguez failed field sobriety tests and was “extremely unsteady on his feet” and mumbling, Keanini said.
Rodriguez’s blood-alcohol level was measured at 0.365 percent, more than four times the legal limit of 0.08 percent, he said. A prescription drug also was found in Rodriguez’s system, and he “blamed the crash on his epilepsy,” Keanini said.
“This is his fourth DUI conviction in the last five years,” Keanini said. “He is a recidivist drunk driver whose behavior has been undeterred by his prior convictions.”
Keanini outlined Rodriguez’s history of DUI arrests on Maui, beginning in December 2012. He was again arrested for DUI in May 2013 and was sentenced to five days in jail. A third DUI arrest in February 2016 resulted in a 30-day jail term.
More than five years since the first arrest, Rodriguez still hasn’t completed court requirements of his first two DUI convictions, Keanini said.
“The defendant has used up his chances,” he said, in recommending the prison sentence.
Rodriguez asked for probation and a one-year jail term with the possibility of early release into treatment.
After his arrest in June 2016, Rodriguez sold his car and hasn’t driven since, said Deputy Public Defender Nikki List.
“Despite the fact that he has had such an alcohol problem, he has managed to stay employed pretty much all his life when he’s not incarcerated,” she said.
She said he even drove across the island to work while participating in the outpatient portion of a drug treatment program on Oahu.
“Eddie has not given up on himself. He really is trying to beat this addiction,” List said. “It’s just an addiction that is very powerful, that has taken over his life.”
When he is released, Rodriguez wants to move to New York, where his sister lives, List said. “He’s definitely still dedicated to trying to get the treatment he needs,” she said.
Rodriguez had pleaded no contest to habitual DUI and driving after his license had been revoked for DUI.
“No matter what the sentence, I’m going to do what I have to do to rehabilitate myself, get it over with so I can go back to my kids,” Rodriguez said in court.
He said his three children are in Miami, where he lived before moving to Maui.
In Florida, Rodriguez was arrested for DUI in 2002 and for DUI and driving while his license was suspended in 2007, Keanini said. Rodriguez also has felony convictions in Florida for burglary, larceny, vehicle theft and cocaine possession.
“All it seems you’ve done is gone from one DUI to the next until you ended up here,” 2nd Circuit Judge Richard Bissen told Rodriguez. “I don’t know what you’re running from. I don’t know what’s going on.
“You’re playing Russian Roulette, and the bullet is the car, the 2-ton vehicle you’re driving. And it’s just a matter of time before you hit somebody, somebody else that has three kids maybe.
“We’re all lucky you’re not here for that.”
Rodriguez had been through drug treatment, succeeding in some programs and walking away from others, Bissen said.
“Up until now, you have not been ready to quit drinking or quit driving, for that matter,” Bissen said. “And you only have to quit one of the two. Lots of people have alcohol issues that don’t drive.
“You put so many people at risk, not to mention yourself. That’s very selfish. That’s very self-centered.”
Noting that Rodriguez hadn’t completed court requirements from his first conviction, Bissen said the defendant’s track record didn’t indicate he would succeed on probation.
“The only way to keep you from driving is to keep you in prison,” the judge told Rodriguez. “And I’m just sorry it’s only five years because I think you still have the urge to drink and you have the urge to drive.”
Rodriguez was ordered to pay a $1,000 fine and $449 in fees.
His sentence also includes a two-year license revocation, to take effect after he serves his prison term and to include the loss of the ability to drive with an ignition interlock device.
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at email@example.com.