News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


State fails citizens when people like Blevins free

Michael Wayne Blevins has a drinking problem that is everybody's business. He's been arrested 19 times or so for driving under the influence of alcohol and, like the Energizer bunny, he keeps going.

His latest drunken episode in which law officers were involved came Wednesday when they apparently linked him to an SUV stolen in Lawrence County. So they charged Mr. Blevins and Travis Johnson with first-degree theft of property.

The two men, located at a Lawrence County home, were extremely intoxicated at the time, officers said, but they couldn't charge either man with DUI because they don't know who drove the vehicle.

Mr. Blevins would not have been involved in an alleged theft if the court system and prisons hadn't kept turning him loose.

He had 16 DUI convictions by the time the state sent him to prison under the newly enacted felony statute. He served 5 years before the Alabama Supreme Court overturned that conviction on a technicality and freed him in 2000. He avoided going back to prison by pleading guilty to a misdemeanor DUI charge.

He was soon back to feeding his addiction and amassing more DUI arrests. By trial time in October 2001, he had three more arrests. The final one came in a bizarre case where he drove a farm tractor into an 18-wheeler.

Circuit Judge Philip Reich sent him off to prison again for up to 10 years. But the state paroled him less than 3 years later, then freed him outright in December.

The potential disaster he creates on public roads makes Mr. Blevins a menace to society. The state should explain why the parole board would free someone with his history of alcoholism.

Keeping him locked up won't rehabilitate this unfortunate man, but it will take away the potential of him running into someone and killing him.

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