Dowagiac man gets jail for truck theft

Published 9:31 am Monday, April 27, 2015

While he may have claimed his reasons for taking the vehicle were due to an emergency, a Dowagiac man’s drunken truck theft has earned him a six-month stay in a Cass County jail cell.

Circuit Judge Michael Dodge sentenced 44-year-old James Scott Jones to 180 days in jail during a sentencing hearing in county court Friday, on charges of operating while intoxicated and unlawfully driving away an automobile. Jones had already pleaded guilty to the counts during an earlier appearance in court, on March 23.

The charges stem from an incident that occurred on Jan. 24, when Jones stole a work truck from the Hill Crest Apartments complex, located on Hill Street in Dowagiac.

Shortly after taking the vehicle, he was stopped by an officer with the Michigan State Police, who discovered that not only did Jones have a suspended driver’s license but that he was also intoxicated, with a .15 blood alcohol level, Dodge said.

“You’re driving on suspended license, which you shouldn’t be doing,” he said. “You’re driving while under the influence of alcohol and you didn’t have any permission to drive the truck in the first place.”

According to the prosecution, Jones had a female passenger in the car with him at the time, and was on the way to the hospital due to medical emergency.

“Two-hundred fifty-one people approximately die every year due to drunk drivers,” said Prosecutor Victor Fitz. “[Jones] is a statistic waiting to happen.”

Fitz pointed out that the defendant has a number of prior convictions on his record, with three felonies and 10 misdemeanors. He also has a history of driving with a suspended license, though most of them occurred over 15 years ago.

“You don’t care that it’s against the law,” Dodge said. “You want to drive, so you drive, whether you have a valid license or not.”

Jones was also serving a probation sentence at the time of the offense for welfare fraud, which he was convicted for back in 2012. With that in mind, Dodge determined that the man would not be a suitable candidate for another probation sentence for his latest criminal behavior, he said.

“Your sentence guideline range does require a minimum jail term of five months,” Dodge said. “The court clearly does not find any substantial or compelling reasons to deviate from that range.”

Jones was given credit for two days already served. He was also ordered to pay $275 worth of restitution.