Seattle man faces 17th DUI charge

A man charged with his 17th DUI was in a King County courtroom Monday morning.

Dwight Benson, 70, is being held on $1 million bail after a hearing, and remains in the King County Jail.

Benson’s defense has painted him as a traumatized war veteran. In 2001, Benson, who served three decades in the Navy and did three tours of Vietnam, was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, a previous attorney said. Attorneys have said he’s not a danger to the public, only that he has a drinking problem.

Judges have disagreed.

"The fact that you haven't hurt someone else or yourself is miraculous," former Seattle Municipal Court Judge Edsonya Charles told Benson in 2010 – when he was sentenced to a year in jail for his 11th DUI and another year for driving with a suspended license. "You've never taken responsibility for your actions."

Benson’s first DUI case was in 1984, one of two DUI convictions that decade. He had six DUI convictions in the 1990s.

Benson’s attorney in 2010, when he also was sentenced for another DUI case, described Benson was "100 percent disabled."

The attorney argued that with the average life expectancy for men such as him, the four-year combined jail sentence that prosecutors argued for would be “a death sentence.”

His jail time wasn't, and prosecutors say Benson continued to drive drunk.

He couldn’t be charged with a felony in those 2010 cases because DUI could be charged with a Class C felony only if the individual had four or more prior offenses within 10 years.

Benson’s current case is a felony charge.

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