MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- State legislators want to use Sandra Hart as an example of how tougher DWI laws are badly needed.
Hart was sentenced for her 10th drunken-driving conviction Monday, fueling the push for tougher DWI laws. State legislators and representatives of Mothers Against Drunk Driving attended the proceeding in Hennepin County District Court, where Hart, 44, received a six-month jail sentence under terms that prosecutors said could release her in as little as three weeks.
Officials later held a press conference to discuss pending legislation that will raise drunken driving from a misdemeanor to a felony for people who have four convictions within 10 years.
Rep. Richard Stanek, R-Maple Grove, said he plans to introduce the ''4-in-10'' measure when the Legislature convenes next week. Sen. Dave Johnson, DFL-Bloomington, will introduce a version of the same bill.
''It may be the first bill to come out of the House,'' Stanek said.
Hart is one of more than 100 people who have 10 or more drunken-driving convictions in Hennepin County, according to County Attorney Amy Klobuchar. Under current law, DWI offenses can be no more than gross misdemeanors and can't be used to increase the sentence for later offenses, Klobuchar said.
''In their hands, cars are like loaded guns,'' she said.
Last June, Hart tried to flee from officers by driving the wrong direction on a busy boulevard in St. Louis Park. A breath test showed her blood alcohol level to be nearly three times the legal limit.
Hart pleaded guilty Monday to fleeing from police, a felony charge, and a gross misdemeanor drunken-driving charge.
Judge Stephen Swanson sentenced Hart to a year and one day in prison on the felony charge and a year in the workhouse for the drunken-driving offense. He then stayed the felony sentence and six months of the workhouse sentence and also ruled that Hart would be eligible for release on electronic home monitoring after 21 days in jail. She must surrender to county authorities next Monday.
Hart must also submit to mandatory blood testing for alcohol and drugs, and will be required to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
''Do you understand that you are not only banned from drinking and driving but from any alcohol consumption whatsoever?'' Swanson asked Hart, who replied that she understood.
Stanek's bill calls for a mandatory sentence of at least five years in prison for the new felony DWI conviction. But it also includes a provision that allows people convicted under the law to be released after serving six months if they participate in extensive therapy and submit to electronic monitoring.
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