On Wednesday, April 13, 2016, Circuit Court Judge Laura Johnson sentenced MICHAEL L. DODSON, d/o/b 12-21-1967, of Branson, to fourteen (14) years in the Missouri Department of Corrections for driving while intoxicated. The sentence followed Dodson’s guilty plea to the class B felony of driving while intoxicated on February 11, 2016.

“Thankfully,” said Taney County Prosecutor Jeff Merrell, “the judges in Taney County recognize the danger that drunk drivers present to the community. Fortunately, this was not a situation in which someone was injured. To the benefit of our entire community, Judge Johnson sentenced Mr. Dodson to prison – where he can’t drink and drive for the next several years.”

Chief-Assistant Prosecutor Tiffany Yarnell, of the Taney County Prosecutor’s Office, argued for Dodson to be sentenced to eighteen (18) years in the Missouri Department of Corrections. The danger drunk drivers present to the safety of others, and the fact that Dodson had eleven (11) previous alcohol-related driving convictions, formed the support for the prosecution’s argument for an eighteen (18) year sentence.

On February 23, 2012, Missouri State Highway Patrol Trooper Terry Bible was on routine patrol on Missouri Highway 165, when he observed Dodson’s vehicle cross the center line multiple times. Once Trooper Bible contacted Dodson, he smelled the odor of intoxicants. Dodson admitted to the Trooper that his driver’s license was suspended for alcohol convictions, and that he probably could not pass field sobriety tests at that moment. Eventually, Dodson submitted a breath sample that showed his blood-alcohol content was .083% – which exceeds the limit allowed by Missouri law.

Driving while intoxicated, as a first offense, is normally a class B misdemeanor, and handled by the Associate Circuit Courts. However, this was Dodson’s twelfth alcohol-related driving conviction, classifying Dodson as a “chronic” D.W.I. offender. The range of punishment for a class B felony is not less than five (5) years in prison and not more than fifteen (15) years in prison. Because Dodson is also a prior and persistent felony offender – having two (2) or more prior felony convictions – he had faced an enhanced maximum punishment of up to thirty (30) years in prison.