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August 4, 2009 - 1 in 5 TN Drunk Drivers Rearrested, Study Finds

One in five drivers arrested for drunken driving in Tennessee between 2002 and 2007 was rearrested at least once more for driving under the influence during the same time frame, a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation analysis released Monday shows.

The crime recidivism analysis found that of 138,183 DUI arrests between 2002 and 2007, 20.7 percent, or 28,741 people, were later arrested for driving drunk again. Thirty-four percent of the repeat offenders were busted within six months of their original arrest date.

TBI analysts also looked at 11,549 robbery arrests, defined as the intentional knowing theft of property from someone by putting the victim in fear.

Sixteen percent of the robbery offenders were rearrested during the 2002-07 time frame. Almost half of the rearrests occurred within six months of the original arrests.

The study found that of 3,269 arrests for rape between 2002 and 2007, 6 percent of offenders were rearrested in the 2002-07 parameters. Nearly 45 percent of the repeat arrests occurred within six months.

TBI spokeswoman Kristen Helm said it "looks to be a very high rearrest rate for DUI" over the other two categories. But she noted that people convicted of rape or robbery are "incarcerated for a long period of time. ... You get arrested for DUI, you get out of jail."

With regard to the DUI recidivism rate, state House Judiciary Committee Chairman Kent Coleman, D-Murfreesboro, said he "would have guessed it would have been higher because I think a lot of people who get stopped for DUI probably have substance abuse problems and addictions."

But the chairman said "many of them might not get caught in the next five years," and he noted a large percentage do not have addiction problems.

The 16 percent recidivism rate for robbery, Rep. Coleman said, "shows that there is a need for violent offenders to serve longer sentences in jail in order to protect individuals."

He noted that prosecutors, sheriffs and local chiefs of police have been promoting "crooks-with-guns" legislation in recent years that seeks to provide longer sentences for repeat offenders.

"It seems like longer offenses for those ... would be supported by that statistic," Rep. Coleman said.

With regard to rape, the lawmaker said the crime ranges from rape of strangers to date rape and pedophilia.

"It's hard for me to guess a figure of recurrence," he said. "I think the state law has done it's best to penalize those offenders, but it just shows that once some offenders get out of jail, they continue to be risks to society."

The analysis was done under a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics. More analysis of arrest-data trends will be forthcoming, Ms. Helm said.

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