A 52-year-old woman who a Portland judge said has been “wholly unsuccessful” in treating her severe alcoholism pleaded guilty to her eighth drunken-driving offense Thursday and was sentenced to seven years in prison followed by three years of probation.

Under current state law, six of Kelly Jean Boyer’s eight convictions for operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol were not considered in her sentencing because they occurred more than 10 years ago.

Boyer, who has listed addresses in Portland and Old Orchard Beach, would have faced a maximum sentence of 364 days in jail on the most recent drunken-driving charge because it is only her second offense under current law, and therefore a misdemeanor.

But at Thursday’s hearing in the Cumberland County Courthouse in Portland, Judge Jeffrey Moskowitz sentenced Boyer more severely on a second count, a felony charge of aggravated operation of a motor vehicle after her license had been revoked as a habitual offender, and for active probation cases dating back to 2007 for which Boyer still faced suspended prison terms.

Although it did not limit Boyer’s overall sentence, the 10-year forgiveness clause inspired state legislators this year to amend the drunken-driving law so that all past felony offenses are considered in sentencing.

Under the new legislation, which lawmakers approved on May 1 by overturning Gov. Paul LePage’s veto, only misdemeanor OUI convictions beyond 10 years are forgiven for sentencing purposes.

All felony drunken driving convictions will be considered in sentencing. The new law goes into effect in August.

Boyer had three felony OUI convictions more than 10 years earlier, two from 2003 and one from 1999.

Boyer also had three prior misdemeanor OUI convictions older than 10 years – from 1997, 1996 and 1992.

State Rep. Timothy Marks, a retired state police trooper and Pittston Democrat who sponsored the new legislation, said it is cases like Boyer’s that compelled him to introduce the bill.

“This is exactly the kind of case,” Marks said in a phone conversation after Boyer pleaded guilty. “These repeat offenders are the worst problems on our roads.”

An earlier version of Marks’ bill called for only misdemeanor OUI convictions older then 15 years to be forgiven, but that proposal was scaled back by members of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.

LePage vetoed the scaled-back version of the bill in April because, he said, it didn’t go far enough.

“I wanted it to go further, as did the governor, but committee members didn’t have the stomach for it,” Marks said.

The bill was driven in part by a fatal crash in Biddeford in August.

David LaBonte, who has a history of drunken-driving convictions, is accused of driving his pickup into a family riding bicycles while he was drunk. Jamerico Elliott was killed and his 15-month-old son Lavarice Elliott was badly injured. The boy’s mother, Melodie Brennan, also was hurt.

LaBonte had four drunken-driving convictions – in 1983, 1988, 2005 and 2006 – but they weren’t recent enough to have his driver’s license suspended.

Although he had a conditional license that didn’t allow him to have any alcohol in his system, LaBonte had a blood alcohol content of about 0.16 percent at the time of the crash, police said. He now faces manslaughter and other charges.

An analysis by the Portland Press Herald found that more than 5,000 people who have been convicted four or more times for drunken driving may still be driving legally. Almost 15,000 people with at least three prior OUI convictions were still allowed to drive.

From 1982 to 2013, 94 people were convicted of eight or more OUI offenses, the analysis found.

Boyer had appeared before the same judge for a different OUI sentencing in 2012.

Moskowitz said he issued a lighter sentence then in hopes that Boyer would take advantage of substance abuse treatment programs offered through the court and close supervision by the probation department.

Moskowitz said at Thursday’s sentencing that this time he had to consider Boyer’s recurring drinking and driving a threat to public safety.

“At some point, your better angels get overcome when you are faced with an awful history that indicates the public is really at risk,” the judge said.

Boyer had graduated from an intensive substance abuse treatment program in the York County Drug Court just 20 days before she was arrested again on the current charge on Jan. 10 in Scarborough.

Boyer told the judge that she made a mistake and went out with coworkers from her job at the University of New England that night and drank four beers.

“I know that once I pick up that first drink, I’m not the same person and I start making poor decisions,” said Boyer, a slight woman dressed in layers beneath a blue jail uniform.

“I’m blessed that I never hurt anyone.”

“Ms. Boyer is a serial drunk driver,” Assistant District Attorney William Barry said.

“Nothing is going to stop Ms. Boyer from drinking and driving drunk. It is by the grace of God that she hasn’t killed anyone or seriously injured anyone.”

Boyer’s attorney, Christian Foster, had argued for a lighter jail sentence and for another substance abuse treatment program.

At the time of Boyer’s arrest she was on probation for her 2012 conviction for felony OUI and some related driving offenses and still faced a suspended prison sentence from two 2007 felony theft convictions.

She has remained in custody since her arrest in January.

Scott Dolan can be reached at 791-6304 or at:

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