The Free Press, Mankato, MN

May 9, 2013

Long prison term stands for repeat drunken driver

By Dan Nienaber
Free Press Staff Writer

A repeat drunken driver who has been in prison since July will stay there until 2015 after losing an appeal to have his sentence reduced.
The 54-month prison sentence was originally stayed for David Donald Uhde, 45, of St. James after he was arrested for drunken driving for the eighth time in August 2008. The stay was lifted by Watonwan County District Court Judge Gregory Anderson in June because Uhde violated his probation.
Uhde was drunk when he was arrested during a domestic assault. One of the conditions of his probation was that he not use alcohol. His blood-alcohol concentration was .28 at the time of his arrest, more than three times the legal limit of .08 for driving.
Uhde told Anderson he had been sober from August 2008 to June 2012 but was feeling depressed and “made a mistake” by drinking instead of contacting his alcohol support group. He also said he drank nearly a liter of vodka in a short period of time to reach that level. 
Uhde asked the judge to order treatment in the community instead of prison time.
In his order revoking Uhde’s probation, Anderson said he was protecting the public by sending Uhde back to prison. Treatment, evaluations and short stays in jail were no longer an option, Anderson said.
“None of these requirements could reasonably guarantee public safety due to the immediacy of danger should (Uhde) choose to drink to a high level and then make the inebriated decision to drive,” Anderson’s order said.
Uhde appealed the ruling, saying Anderson abused his discretion because there was insufficient evidence for his conclusion that Uhde’s probation violation was “intentional and inexcusable” and that Uhde was a threat to the public. Citing Uhde’s long history of drunken driving, and the fact that he had been in prison once before for a felony drunken-driving conviction, the Court of Appeals upheld Anderson’s decision.
Along with a criminal record including forgery and theft charges, Uhde was arrested for misdemeanor drunken driving six times from 1989 to 2001. His first felony arrest for the crime was in August 2002. He received a stayed 42-month sentence after he pleaded guilty to first-degree drunken driving in February 2003.
Uhde was sentenced May 15, 2003, and a warrant was issued for his arrest 12 days later because he had violated the terms of his probation. He was sent to prison to serve the 42 months.
Uhde was still on conditional release from prison in August 2008 when he was arrested for the second felony drunken-driving charge. Even though sentencing guidelines called for an automatic 54-month prison sentence, District Court Judge Allison Krehbiel gave Uhde a stayed sentence with the conditions he complete Watonwan County’s Drug Court program, not use alcohol, and submit to random drug and alcohol testing.
In December 2009, Uhde moved to Crow Wing County so his probation supervision was transferred there. That county wouldn’t accept Uhde into its DWI and Drug Court programs because of his criminal record. So that portion of his probation was suspended. His probation agent also said he was unable to verify if Uhde was participating in a support group.
The appeals court ruling said Uhde’s argument that he had been sober for a long time, only “broke down and drank on one occasion” and stayed at home rather than driving was not persuasive.
“The terms of (Uhde’s) probation did not merely require him to abstain from drinking and driving, but required him to abstain from drinking and possessing alcohol entirely,” the ruling said. “Moreover, maintenance of sobriety for 46 months does not excuse or justify (Uhde’s) alcohol intake when he had been ordered to abstain from drinking or possessing alcohol for the entire seven-year period of probation.”
Uhde is serving his sentence in the Lino Lakes prison. His anticipated release is in March 2015.