WEST VALLEY CITY — Prosecutors here say they have lassoed a drunken driver who slipped through the cracks and was arrested on her ninth DUI charge after a hit-and-run accident that occurred when she was supposed to be in jail.
"We see cases like this all too often," said John Huber, West Valley's chief prosecutor. "People are arrested for DUIs time and time again and aren't forced to pay for their crimes.
"This time we were able to put a dangerous offender behind bars for a long time."
Lisa Michelle King, 40, has a long history of DUI arrests and convictions, according to court records. But prosecutors said they were shocked when the West Valley City woman was arrested Feb. 13 on the latest DUI charge, because she had just been convicted of a felony DUI 14 months earlier and was supposed to be behind bars.
On Feb. 13, King was apparently driving in the parking lot of an apartment complex near Redwood Road and 3900 South when witnesses say she was fiddling around with her purse. Then she abruptly threw her vehicle into reverse and backed into a car behind her, according to a police report. King then sped away from the scene, police say.
There was only minor damage to the victim's car and no injuries, but witnesses followed King, hemmed her into a parking stall and called police when it appeared the woman had been drinking.
Police found a half-full bottle of vodka in her car, according to court records. She was on probation and had no valid driver's license. "She was definitely not supposed to be driving," Huber said. She had just purchased the Ford Tempo she was driving.
According to court records, King has been convicted of six misdemeanor DUI charges at various places along the Wasatch Front and two felony DUIs. A felony DUI, which carries a much heftier penalty, can be charged when an offender is convicted of DUI after two prior convictions within 10 years, and prosecutors in West Valley City and other communities team with the Salt Lake County Attorney's office in tackling felony DUI cases.
Staff at the Salt Lake County Jail said Friday King is being held there on several DUI charges. She is ineligible for bail on two felony DUI charges.
In December 2001, when King was sentenced on her second felony DUI, prosecutors argued King should pay a stringent penalty for the crime. A West Valley judge gave specific instructions she was to serve all of her time in jail.
But because of overcrowding, King was released early from jail with a monitoring bracelet on her ankle, Huber said.
Three of the woman's previous DUI convictions had involved hit-and-run accidents, Huber said. "I don't think she's ever injured someone," he said. "We've been lucky this way."
But King wasn't so lucky at a hearing about whether to revoke her probation last week.
"There comes a time when enough is enough," said West Valley City 3rd District Judge Terry Christiansen. About 302 people die every week as a result of people driving under the influence of alcohol, he said.
Christiansen heard details about King's newest DUI arrest and sentenced her to prison for up to five years for violating her probation.
He equated the number of people who died in terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 to the number of victims killed every 10 weeks by drunken drivers in the United States.