The circumstances surrounding a man who was arrested in Kent last week on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) further illustrates the problem of enforcing penalties for repeat offenders in Washington state.
Police say that they received a call last week regarding a potential DUI suspect near a 7-Eleven in Kent. Callers had told police that a man driving a blue Chevrolet car was driving erratically and that they saw him urinating next to his vehicle after pulling into the 7-Eleven parking lot.
Responding to the call, police found 26-year-old Omar Medina leaving the convenience store with a plastic bag containing a can of beer. Officers questioned Medina about whether he had been driving the vehicle which he responded by saying he had not and attempted to walk away, though police say he was clearly having difficulty walking.
“Omar became combative and said he was an assassin for the US Government,” said the responding officer. “While at the jail I advised him of his rights which he said he did not understand and said he did not respect my authority/organization.” Medina allegedly later refused to take a breathalyzer test and continued to make statements about being a killer to police.
Repeat Offender Putting Innocent Drivers at Risk
Though the statements that Medina reportedly made to responding police officers gives a pretty clear indication of how intoxicated the man likely was at the time, police have also made clear that Medina is a repeat offender in the area and has a long history of trouble with the law.
The Department of Licensing (DOL) “lists Medina as a habitual offender for driving with a suspended license,” according to a KIRO 7 news report. Police records also indicate that Medina has been arrested for DUI multiple times since his first in the Seattle area back in 2005 and has failed to appear in court at least nine times since 2006.
While it is unclear exactly how many times Medina has been arrested for DUI, court documents show he has already been convicted twice for driving without a required ignition interlock device. The state DOL website says that ignition interlock devices are typically required for at least one year upon a first offense of DUI, though the court has the authority to waive this requirement in some cases.
Clearly, Medina falls into the pool of a number of Washington state drivers who neglect to have an ignition interlock device installed in their vehicles despite court orders to do so. Unfortunately, the state has admitted that enforcing the installation of these devices is difficult due to a scaled back budget that leaves just a few employees to monitor tens of thousands of offenders.
Thankfully, a responsible driver was able to identify Medina as posing a threat to the public due to his level of impairment and prevent any serious accidents from occurring. But in many cases the police are not aware of drivers like Medina until it is too late, resulting in serious injury and even fatal car accidents.
“He is a grave danger to the community given his obvious inability to not drive when he is impaired,” says Senior Deputy Prosecutor Amy Freedheim, who is one of the strongest advocates for DUI accident victims in Washington state.