Hard Drinkers Getting Hard Time

A new DUI law works in the sober driver’s favor.

How is the state's new felony drunk-driving law working out in King County? Good for the public, not so well for drunk drivers. Of the seven cases completed since the law went into effect in July 2007, all seven defendants were convicted or pled guilty—including the most recent, Ernest San Nicolas, who was also charged with vehicular homicide and received a three-year term this month.The new law provides prison terms for anyone convicted of four or more DUIs within a span of 10 years, a big step up from the one-year maximum that can be given for misdemeanor DUIs. Hit the hardest so far is Karl Solid, the first person in the county to be so charged and the first convicted. (See "DUI Royalty's Also-Rans," SW, April 9). Solid, of Bothell, who has eight prior convictions for drunk-driving-related offenses since 1991, got the maximum five years. After Solid—who was already covered with blood from a fall at his home—almost ran a state trooper off the road in a September 2007 incident, the trooper said he had to hold the drunken suspect upright in order to question him.Most of the others convicted got two or three years in prison. Eryn K. Paull of Seattle, with four prior DUIs, got 43 months after she was convicted by a jury. Stopped after weaving through an occupied construction zone in August 2007, she was found talking on her cell phone and smoking a cigarette. When asked how much she'd had to drink, Paull replied, "Too much."San Nicolas, of Federal Way, killed Elissa Villegas, also of Federal Way, when his silver Honda Accord ran into her silver Honda Accord on State Route 18 at 4:30 in the morning on Jan. 6. Authorities say a drunken San Nicolas came straight at Villegas, eastbound, in her westbound lane. Villegas swerved into the second westbound lane but skidded sideways; San Nicolas' wrong-way vehicle T-boned her car, and Villegas died at the scene.Prosecutors said San Nicolas was still sitting in his smashed car, motor running, when a deputy sheriff arrived. When asked for ID, he dropped his wallet before falling over to his hands and knees. He said he'd had just "two doubles," but was too drunk to complete a field sobriety test. (His blood alcohol content turned out to be.15, almost twice the legal limit.) Though his victim died, San Nicolas "was unscathed" by the crash, prosecutors said.

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