NBC10.com - Harry Hairston
It took 13 DUI arrests before a Bucks County man received significant jail time. NBC10's Harry Hairston sat down with a Bucks County prosecutor to investigate why his sentence took so long.
Prosecutors say a man charged with 13 DUIs was no stranger to rehab facilities. But it wasn't just because he spent a significant amount of time there. It was also because he owned three of them.
"He was an owner of three rehab facilities and was on the board of directors of one of them," said Bucks County Prosecutor Michelle Henry.
It was way back in 1984 when Lawrence Konyves was convicted for his first DUI. But the Yardley man, who was 16 at the time, was just getting started, receiving a dozen more DUI charges since then.
Amazingly, Konyves managed to avoid any significant jail time. That was until Monday, when he was sentenced to 5 to 10 years in state prison for his 12th and 13th drunk driving offenses.
"His license was suspended and he had been convicted 11 prior times," said Henry, who led the fight to convict Konyves. "He just completed disregarded the law. He would drink and get behind the wheel of a car."
Yet while Konyves is finally getting justice, an important question remains. How did he avoid state prison time for that long? Prosecutors say he did it by manipulating the system.
"If he was sentenced to jail time, as he was as the law mandates, he would manage to talk people into a house arrest situation which he served from home," said Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler. "Or a situation where he was in a halfway house."
According to court records, Konyves immediately checked himself into a halfway house for months at a time whenever he was arrested for DUI. When he went before a judge, they were often lenient toward him, putting his time in rehab toward his sentence so that he never spent any significant time behind bars.
Henry also says that when it comes to DUIs in Pennsylvania, the law doesn't always fit the crime.
"The consequences are the same for somebody who has been convicted for three DUIs, 10 DUIs, 13 DUIs or for that matter, 25 DUIs," she said.
In Pennsylvania, a DUI conviction carries a sentence of two and a half to five years. Heckler says judges are inclined to give the minimum when a defendant pleads guilty and shows they’re getting help, as Konyves did every time he was arrested. Konyves also took advantage of the fact that while most states have DUI felony laws, Pennsylvania and New Jersey are two of seven states that don't make a second or more DUI arrest a felony. Due to Pennsylvania laws, judges could only give Konyes one to two year sentences. Konyves spent most of those sentences in rehab.
According to Henry, Konyves was a self-employed builder who owned three rehab centers and is on the board of directors of a recovery house association.
"The irony is just amazing," said Henry.
Konyves' luck finally changed on Monday after Henry convinced a judge to give Konyves the harshest sentence.
According to the Philly Burbs, the judge rejected Konyves' plea to be permitted to serve time partially in the county jail and partially in an in-patient treatment program. Instead he was given a five to ten year sentence since he was convicted of his 12th and 13th DUI at the same time.
Prior to his sentencing, many victims wondered whether Konyves had to kill someone before he spent time in state prison.
“Happily in this case, we got him a bit before that,” said Heckler.
NBC10’s Katy Zachry reached out to Konyves' attorney on Tuesday but never received a call back.
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