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A state appellate court has upheld a 27-years-to-life state prison sentence for a Lincoln man who was convicted by a Placer County jury in 2008 of driving under the influence.

Jeffrey Charles Wren, 38, had appealed the sentence, contending that one of two previous strikes in his criminal record should be stricken and that the lengthy prison sentence was unconstitutional because it represented cruel and unusual punishment for a drunken driving offense.

However, the Third District Court of Appeal stated that Wren had three prior convictions for DUI, that he was out on bail when his last offense occurred and that he was convicted in 1991 on two felony counts of child molestation.

While on probation in 1992, the defendant was found intoxicated and passed out in the restroom of a Folsom restaurant. In his pocket was a loaded handgun, the court noted.

While the case was pending, Wren fled the state, violating probation, and he was apprehended in 1995 in Montana on a DUI case. Returned to California, Wren received an eight-year prison sentence and was warned by the court that any future felony conviction would result in a prison term of 25 years to life, the appeal court judges wrote.

Since then, Wren has continued to get into trouble, the court indicated.

In 2000, he failed to register as a sex offender. In 2001 and 2002, he violated parole for alcohol-related incidents. He was also convicted for DUI in 2003, 2004 and 2006 in Lake and Plumas counties and of hit-and-run driving in 2004 in Plumas County. He was driving on a suspended license in three of those incidents.

In June 2006, Wren was arrested on a felony charge of possessing methamphetamine. He was out on bail when arrested four months later by the California Highway Patrol for a DUI incident near Lincoln, according to Placer County Deputy District Attorney Todd Kuhnen.

Because Wren had three prior DUI convictions within 10 years, the newest DUI offense was charged as a felony, Kuhnen said. In addition, his two prior strikes made the DUI case subject to the three-strikes law, which calls for a 25-years-to-life prison sentence, Kuhnen said.

After Wren was convicted on the DUI charge, he pleaded out on the drug offense, which added two years to his minimum sentence because the DUI  occurred while he was out on bail for the drug charge, he said.

The appellate court judges wrote that the trial court judge in the DUI case stated that the defendant had a 20-year history of ‘repeatedly engaging in behavior that only by the sheerest happenstance did not result in death or personal injury.’

Kuhnen said the defendant’s sentence may seem like a harsh penalty for a DUI, but ‘based on his repeated criminal conduct, he posed a great danger to society with his drinking and driving.’

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