By JESSIE STENSLAND
WHIDBEY NEWS TIMES
Island County’s first drunk driver to be charged with a felony DUI under a relatively new state law was recently sent to prison for more than four years.
Kelly Wayne Shields, a 45-year-old Oak Harbor resident, pleaded guilty in Island County Superior Court Feb. 16 to felony driving under the influence, driving while license suspended or revoked and possession of 40 grams or less of marijuana.
Judge Vickie Churchill sentenced Shields to four years and three months in prison, which was the recommendation set forth by the prosecution and defense under a plea bargain.
“Mr. Shields’ life is marked by poor decisions and a complete disregard for the safety of others,” Deputy Prosecutor Eric Ohme said. “Hopefully, this guilty plea will be the start of better decisions in the future.”
Normally, driving under the influence is a misdemeanor offense, which carries a maximum penalty of a year in jail. But a 2007 state law turned a DUI into a felony offense under certain circumstances. Prosecutors can charge someone with a felony DUI if he or she has four or more prior DUI offenses or a single past conviction of an intoxication-related vehicular assault or vehicular homicide charge.
In Shields’ case, he was previously convicted of vehicular assault, though he also has a history of driving-related crimes.
In 2004, Shields rolled a car on Campbell Road and injured his passenger after drinking at a South Whidbey bar, according to court documents. The car went off the road, hit a dirt embankment and rolled onto its top. The female passenger suffered a laceration to the head and three of her fingers were crushed severely enough that they had to be amputated.
Shields’ blood-alcohol content was measured at 0.13 at two hours and 38 minutes after the crash. On June 24, 2005, Judge Churchill sentenced him to a year and two months in prison.
According to Ohme, Shields’ criminal history also included convictions for two DUIs, attempting to elude a pursuing police vehicle, reckless driving, hit and run, and possession of heroin.
In the recent incident, State Patrol Trooper Larry Provoncha saw a car weaving and breaking erratically just outside of Oak Harbor on Heller Road Jan. 29. The trooper pulled the car over and arrested Shields on suspicion of DUI. His blood-alcohol content was 0.23, which is nearly three times the legal limit of 0.08.
In addition, Shields’ license was suspended and he had a small amount of pot in his pocket.
Shields’ attorney, Darrin Hall of Coupeville, said his client quickly agreed to the plea bargain with a sentence recommendation at the bottom of the standard sentencing range.
“He understood it was an uphill battle and took the high road,” Hall said.
In prison, Shields is required to undergo an evaluation for substance abuse and comply with treatment recommendations.
This article was originally published in the Whidbey News Times on February 23, 2010.