Friday, January 28, 2011

DUI Court At School

As I mentioned in this post, today we had the Real DUI Court in Schools presentation. I was impressed, much more so than I've been with the Every 15 Minutes program.

As was stated in my previous post, it was a real judge with a real defendant with a real case and a real punishment. In other words, instead of taking our students downtown to the courthouse, the courthouse came to us.

It started with a 5-10 minute long video, a blood-and-guts dramatization of what happens in car accidents. It was shocking enough to get everyone's attention. Then a 24-year-old told his story of his grad night partying, and how he wrapped his car around an oak tree and killed his best friend. After him, the bailiff had everyone rise and the judge entered and off to the races we went. A young woman (21?) was the defendant, and she waived her right to trial and pleaded no contest, which the judge informed her would be treated as admitting guilt. With all establishment of facts out of the way, the judge pronounced sentence, right there in front of all of us. For a first time offender, there was 48 hrs in jail (the woman was taken away in handcuffs), a bunch of parole, requirement to attend DUI classes and pay for them, and thousands of dollars in a laundry list of fines, penalties, and fees--and this did not include her attorneys fees, the cost to get her car out of the impound lot, the increased cost of her insurance, etc. She did not lose her license. She did, however, address the students and told them how stupid she felt, how shamed she was, and how she'd affected not only herself but her friends and family. After she was escorted out, the judge addressed the students and had a Q and A session. I left shortly after the judge began speaking.

It was real, and that was important. I'd have liked for the young man's testimonial to have been shorter, and for the actual court case to have been longer--the judge seemed like she was speed-reading her way through it. Other than that, it was well done. Made for several good conversations throughout the rest of the day.

The defense attorney was the father of one of my students. I sent her home with a couple questions for her dad; if I get answers and remember to do so, I'll update this post on Monday with that additional information.


Ellen K said...

When people see a story about some drunk who has five or six DUI's killing someone, they never stop to think where and when that guy started. The guy who totaled my son's car was over 50. Yet he tried to run. We settled, my son will get a new car. But that guy has been before a just four times for DUI. It is time for tougher penalties for DUI. I am tired of apologists saying we need to be lighter on teens. Next time might be too late.

MikeAT said...

Ellen K

What state do you live in? And was the guy convicted 5 times?

One thing that annoys me as a cop is a frequent flyer not getting slammed with real time. A third DWI in Texas is a 3rd Degree felony but too often DA's take a plea bargin to ensure a conviction. Last summer a drunk driver (this was his second offense, a Class B Misdomenor) almost ran me over when I was running radar and then took off (evading with a vehicle a 3rd Degree Felony). Caught him 8 blocks later and we got his blood under search warrant. The DA let him plea to probation.

Things like that make you want to scream "Why bother"

Ellen K said...

I live in Texas. And the laws are not applied with an even hand. A kid with a DWI or DUI often can get charges mitigated if he or she is willing to make restitution. But too often those teen offenders continue their ways into adulthood. The guy who hit my son was driving a 2009 Jag. He works as a stockbroker. It was a six pm on a dry pavement. He turned into a Mustang then hit my son, then spun into a vacant lot and then tried to run. What is galling is that his insurance company, Progressive, stonewalled settlement at every turn. They dragged their feet, they made excuses, they did not return calls or emails and what is more, thanks to insurance laws in my state, they tried to get my son to settle for wholesale cost of the car. That's when we got a lawyer. This is not the way I like to settle things, but we felt we had no option. Only then, when the lawyer was involved, did it come out that the guy had had several offenses. It is amazing how people in high powered positions can hide such things. Had I not been courting a lawsuit myself, I was tempted to out his trangressions to his boss. For the cops involved, it has to be a nuisance. The Plano PD was great to my son mainly because they KNEW the guy was DUI. Unfortunately the laws break down between offense, enforcement and penalty phases. This is why a first offense must be taken seriously and why we should not let well placed parents buy their kids out of being labeled. The excuse I keep hearing is that we have no room in the jails. My response is that if you take people off the streets soon enough, the robberies, the domestic disputes, the shootings and fights don't happen.

Here is another aspect that will make you scream. In Rockwall, a largely suburban whitebreak area, a sobriety checkpoint managed to clean up what was becoming a serious DWI problem. When approached to do the same thing on I35 south of 635 in Dallas, the Dallas sheriff refused saying that because there were so many Tejano bars along that strip that it would be seen as profiling. So I guess if you are Hispanic and DWI in Dallas, it's okay.