PARMA, OH (WOIO) - It was a simple drunken driving case that landed in Parma Municipal Court. But it exposed a complex issue, and now that simple case is on its way
to changing Ohio law.
It involved Jerry Owca, caught driving drunk for the 10th time last winter on West 130th Street in Parma Heights. He not only has multiple DUIs, in a 1984 crash, he caused the deaths of three people on Brookpark Road.
He spent just over a year in county jail, got out and despite a lifetime ban on driving, he got a new license.
When confronted, Owca told reporter Paul Orlousky, 'I've had my license since I served my time in 1984. I don't know what to say. I really don't.'
The problem is that license suspensions begin at the time you're sentenced. So if your license is suspended for a year and you're in prison longer
than that, you can get a license as soon as you get out.
The issue of lifetime suspensions that really aren't lifetime caught the attention of State Reps Nathan Manning and Nan Baker.
"These are people who are serving 10 to 15 years in prison and then getting out of prison and then getting their license back right away after taking someone's life." said Manning.
He and Rep. Baker have addressed the issue with House Bill 300 which passed the Ohio House unanimously on Tuesday.
It moves to the Senate after the holiday break where it already has wide support.
It is legislative action that is applauded by Parma Judge Timothy Gilligan, who initially sentenced Jerry Owca.
He remarked, "I really think the focus should be on the multiple offenders."
Owca has appealed the 180-day sentence. The appeal was denied, and now he's asking for reconsideration.
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