Imagine this scenario: there’s a knock on the door or a phone call from a police officer informing you a family member has died at the hands of a drunk driver. That they’ve joined the ranks of the ever-increasing number of victims who have lost their lives every fifteen minutes.
How would you feel if you caused the death of someone’s family member, because you were selfish enough to get behind the wheel knowing you were drunk, but still not caring about the possible repercussions of your stupidity? Earlier this year, I lost a dear friend of mine because of a drunk driver. It’s harder to deal with because I know the idiot responsible. I can’t help but wonder how he feels about taking the life of such a vibrant young mother.
This isn’t the first time I’ve dealt with this and I’m sad to say it probably won’t be the last. Many people deal with the pain and rage that stems from this kind of tragedy. Victims and their families are certainly not the only ones who suffer. I wonder how the families of the drivers feel, knowing their loved one just threw away their own life by showing such abysmal judgement. Especially when a fatality or life changing injury occurs.
This holds true for many young college students; quite a few of whom may not be fully aware of the consequences. Although, I don’t see how this could happen given the amount of drunk driving awareness programs most, if not all schools offer. I’m not just talking about the risk for bodily harm. There’s also legal and financial ramifications to consider.
Penalties aren’t set in stone. Some judges may use the same sentencing guidelines but they vary from county to county, judge to judge. Punishment depends on the severity of the offense. For a first driving under the influence (DUI) offense, the following may happen: your jail term can be from two days to six months. The fines and penalties can range from $1400 to $2600, not counting lawyer and towing fees, or reinstatement of your license. The license suspension averages between thirty days and ten months depending if you’re convicted. You must complete a three or nine month alcohol program that costs $500 minimum. You must pay SR22 high risk insurance for three years.
For the second offense, jail time varies from ten days to one year; with fines starting at $1800, usually topping out at $2800. While the license is usually suspended for two years, it can be reduced to one year. For those crazy enough to get nailed a third time, an incarceration period ranging from 120 days to one year will be imposed, along with fines substantially increased to the tune of $1800 to $18,000; the license suspension period becomes three years, and the alcohol program is for nine or eighteen months.
A 24 year-old Yuba College student (who will remain anonymous) didn’t receive any jail time, aside from the few hours he spent in the drunk tank. He spent three years on summary probation. The judge had imposed a fine of $1800; but instead, he opted to perform 150 hours of community service. His license suspension fell into the first offense range- it was suspended for three months, and he also had to take classes at Pathways for three months, costing him $600.
For second or third time offenders, or first offenders with a very high Blood Alcohol Content (BAC), an Ignition Interlock Device (I.I.D.), which is a mobile breathalyzer device that’s wired into your ignition, can be required on any and all vehicles you own, with all costs covered by the offender. If you blow into it and alcohol is detected, you’ll not be able to start the car, much less drive it. You must take it in for maintenance and calibrations as well, and the time frame cannot exceed 60 days. While it is checked out, they will also check to see if any violations have been logged. If any violations have been logged, the installers will report you to either the court who imposed this on you, or to the DMV; whichever applies. This could result in a further restriction of your driving privileges.
There is a “look back” period of ten years. This means that the courts can, and hopefully will, take into account any prior DUI’s that have occurred during the ten years after conviction or a guilty plea. Simply put, if you are dumb enough to re-offend, you may be well and truly screwed, which is well deserved.
Do you really want to be become another DUI arrest statistic? The following DUI arrests occurred in 2011. Butte County: 1,460 arrests. Colusa County: 138 arrests. Nevada County: 604 arrests. Sutter County: 426 arrests. Yuba County: 423 arrests. Last, but certainly not least, is Placer County: 1,841 arrests. I’m cringing at the thought of those numbers increasing this year, especially during the holiday period.
The holiday season is a time of revelry and fun with our friends and families, but why does it become a season of such stupid irresponsibility as well? It seems that, for some reason, students have this foolish feeling of invincibility. To be fair, I’ve found a lot of “older” people get that feeling, but from the questions I’ve asked amongst the 18-24 year old students, I’d say that the levels of this particular brand of idiocy is more prevalent.
Let’s go back to the student. You know the legal and financial repercussions of his actions. Thankfully no one, including himself, was injured. I asked him if he had learned anything. He did not care for the Pathways program that local judges require DUI offenders to go through. He mentions, “The worse part was having someone tell you for three months that you have a problem with alcohol because you got a DUI.”
I asked him to describe how he got pulled over, and subsequently arrested. He was caught leaving a bar in Marysville during the Peach Festival; he had been stopped due to a faulty headlight. He admitted that he had a beer from the bar in his vehicle and was “chugging it when the cops pulled up.” Upon finding out that he had been (in this case, literally) drinking and driving, the officer gave him a sobriety test. During the breathalyzer, he blew a 0.11 BAC and was arrested and booked, and held in the drunk tank until about 8 A.M.
He stated that he “was aware that he was drunk, he had been drinking all day.” This response begs the obvious question: why do it? Why put your life and those of others in jeopardy? His reply – he had to work in the morning, and didn’t want to take a cab home. There were others in the bar who were planning on taking a cab, but not until the bar closed. He didn’t want to wait. He further states, “The thought of getting caught never really crossed my mind. I’d done it hundreds of times before.”
I asked if his arrest had embarrassed him, and how his friends and family reacted. Though he wasn’t embarrassed all that much knowing that older people in his family saw his name in the paper, people whose opinions he does care about did cause at least a little bit of embarrassment. His family’s reaction? Mostly the whole “shame on you” speech. As far as his friends were concerned, they “gave him a hard time.” Said stuff like, “We told you to take a cab.” Most of his friends had gotten their DUIs at a young age, before they even turned 21. They’d learned their lessons and didn’t want to do it again.
After all this, if he knows now that he is too drunk, he and his friends will split a cab if they’re at the bar, or he makes sure he has a place to sleep if a designated driver is not available. I’m happy to say that he hasn’t re-offended. It appears that he has (hopefully) learned his lesson.
It’s too bad that there are so many others out there who haven’t learned their lessons. It’s bad enough that they’ve shown a complete lack of regard for others by doing it once (or been caught once), but to habitually re-offend? Those excuses for human beings not only need to have their licenses permanently revoked, but to face much stiffer penalties. A harsh wake-up call needs to be dealt to them, and soon, before they end up being cuffed and stuffed after either seriously injuring someone, or worse.