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Public Safety

Cedar Rapids man with 16 drunken driving convictions receives sentencing break

Iowa Supreme Court ruling lessens his prison time

Steven Viers
Steven Viers

CEDAR RAPIDS — A Cedar Rapids man, who has 16 drunken driving convictions and multiple violations of driving without a license, will spend less time in prison for his last offenses because of a 2018 Iowa Supreme Court ruling.

Steven L. Viers Jr., 58, was sentenced in 2015 to 20 years in prison for his 15th and 16th convictions but 6th Judicial District Mary Chicchelly resentenced him Thursday to 10 years for both convictions. In one offense, he was found guilty by a Linn County jury in March 2015 for OWI, third-offense, as a habitual offender, which made his sentence 15 years.

Viers, also was convicted in a separate OWI, third offense, and driving while barred from 2013. He was sentenced to five years on these charges. Both sentences were ran consecutively for 20 years.

The court ruled last October in a Muscatine County case — Iowa v. Noll — that an OWI, third offense, shouldn’t be subject to the enhancement. Because the law includes a maximum penalty of five years for OWI, third-offense, the habitual offender status, which applies if a defendant has been convicted of any three felonies, is not available for this offense, according to the ruling.

Chicchelly on Thursday resentenced Viers to a total of 10 years, cutting his sentence time in half.

Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden, after the hearing, said there is a proposed bill headed to the judiciary committee that could change the law again to allow OWI, third offense, to be subject to the habitual offender status.

During Viers’ 2015 sentencing, Vander Sanden, in arguing for the enhancement, admitted a lengthy prison term is unusual for drunken driving charges, but “if anyone deserves it, Mr. Viers does.”

Vander Sanden said Viers has no regard for laws. He has continued to drive intoxicated and without a license multiple times. He pointed out that Viers has been in and out of the court system for 30 years.

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The only surprising thing is that Viers hasn’t been involved in a fatality with his drunken driving record, Vander Sanden said.

In the 2015 offense, Viers backed out of a driveway on Mount Vernon Road and hit another car driving down the street. He then drove back in the driveway and parked. The other driver called police and identified Viers, who was at the house where he parked his car.

The woman driving the car Viers hit, said in a statement that she was between two other cars at the time and honked at him to stop. She “felt trapped and terrified” because her son was the passenger that day.

l Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

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