As we step deeper into the New Year, it's time we reflect on 2016. It was a monumentally strange year in terms of politics, economics, and social justice. But one of the most shocking statistics from 2016 has nothing to do with those issues we've been so focused on. It turns out that while we've been railing on the system, we've been doing it with a drink in our hand. And then driving home. In 2016, an average of 28 people were killed every single day in drunk-driving accidents. According to the NHTSA's Mark Rosekind, that's an increase that hasn't been seen in 50 years. We have a problem, America. Drinking and driving.
Campaigns by politicians and groups like MADD have encouraged the government to step up their game against DUIs and DWIs and DWAIs and whatever other state charges exist out there.This push has been a very good thing considering that an estimated 30 people die from alcohol-related accidents every... single... day. Drinking and driving is a really stupid idea, but good people with seemingly harmless intentions are getting slammed with DUIs every day. My father was one of them. He made a dumb decision to drive after a night of dancing and drinking that boiled down to him being too cheap for a taxi, and too prideful to admit his limits. He should never have put himself of others at risk, but the punishment of fines, fees, penalties, and the hellish downpour of shame hardly fit my definition of "justice." That's why I wrote this post. Drinking and driving is always a terrible, horrible idea, but getting a DUI doesn't make you a bad person. It's all about self control. My hope is that anyone facing the shame of DUI charges will see the this time as a lesson and make some changes, or if you have a loved one who is at risk for going through this you can have the courage to approach them and discuss it before it is too late. So, let's set aside all the embarrassment and misery to look at the facts of a DUI charge. If you've been charged with driving under the influence, these are what you can expect from the process: JailDriving under the influence of drugs or alcohol comes with many different types of charges. In Arizona,a DUI charge can be issued without a breathalyzer while a DWI charge is issued after measuring breath or blood. In this case, the DWI will obviously have harsher legal consequences than the DUI. A first-time DUI charge in Arizona with BAC under .15% will earn a driver a minimum incarceration of 24 hours and a maximum of 10 days. DUIs in California come with the option of 48 hours in jail, or 90 days of a restricted license (after the mandatory 30-day suspension). In Texas, residents face jail time of the minimum 72 hours, or the maximum of 180 days. LicenseFirst-time DUIs in California come with 4 months of immediate license suspension. Drivers that meet certain requirements can apply for a restricted driver's license after 30 days of suspended privileges. If granted, they'll be issued a 5-month restricted license that allows them to drive to and from work and the obligatory DUI program. Folks in Arizona face a 90-day suspension, which also allows for restricted driving when requirements are met. Before a restricted license is granted, eligible drivers must first complete a drug and alcohol screening that will be used to determine the level of court-ordered programming they will have to complete (16 hours bare minimum). If a restricted license is granted, the remaining 60 days of of the 90 will allow for transportation for work, school, and DUI classes. But before drivers can get back behind the wheel, they'll need a certified ignition-interlock device installed and ready to go.
ClassesDrug and alcohol education varies from state to state, but a DUI or DWI arrest guarantees attending a program of one type or another. Depending on the location, a DUI class could be done in a weekend, or it may be spread across months of time. The BAC at time of arrest could also determine the length and type of court-ordered classes. DUI-education programs in California cost around $600 and take three months (nine months if BAC was 0.20% or higher). Attending these classes is a requirement for restricted driving privileges. Completing the program is also the only way to get a suspended license reinstated. TrialFighting a DUI charge is a technical legal battle. Proving innocence will take legal skills in order to find and hire an expert witness, select a jury panel, file motions to suppress evidence (or fight a "prior"), and to determine how or if to bear testimony in court. Anyone charged with a DUI will have the right to choose between a jury trial or a bench trial (or rather, judgement via judge). There are pros and cons to both types of trails, but the general consensus is that jury trials beat the bench. Charges & PenaltiesAs of today, a DUI charge in California stays on the record for ten years. That could change though, because there's talk of keeping it on for life. The folks down in Texas already have DUIs set as a lifelong criminal charge. In New York, the courts look at your record for the last twenty-five years.
ProbationA guilty DUI conviction comes with mandatory probation. A misdemeanor DUI charge generally comes with an informal probation without any sort of meetings or surprise visits from probation officers, but that doesn't mean it should be taken lightly. Whatever state, being charged with a crime while on probation obligates the court to issue a harsher punishment. That means everyone with a DUI conviction is walking on eggshells and needs to watch and consider every single step they take. California issues 3-5 years of probation for first-time misdemeanor DUI convictions while Arizona may issue up to 5 years.
InsuranceAnyone convicted with a DUI will be required to get an SR-22 or FR-19 to verify that certain insurance requirements are met. Some states may require an additional FR-44 with further obligations. This verification must be provided by the insurance company to the DMV, and it's not something that all insurance companies will do (DUI = high-risk driving). An SR-22 only costs around $25, but it comes with a minimum term of car insurance. So, anyone hoping to save some money by riding their bike for the next three years will probably be stuck getting an SR-22 once they pull their car out of the garage.
The costs don't end there though, because there's a HUGE jump in insurance premiums. Esurance says that having an SR-22 may or may not cause a higher rate, but one thing is for sure; a DUI charge will affect insurance rates for the worse. According to Esurance, DUIs cost drivers $2700 in insurance alone. Of course, this is just an average. With the right (or rather, wrong) insurance company and individual driving record, it could cost even more.
WorkBackground checks are being done by more and more employers. Thanks to the growing ease of the web, you're lucky if you can even rent an apartment without a background and credit check. Whether a DUI charge comes as a misdemeanor or a felony, the charge will pop up anytime someone searches your name. Future jobs are obviously at risk from a DUI charge, but a DUI can land someone in hot water with their present employer too. Being jailed for days will certainly do it, but simply getting charged with a misdemeanor may trigger action from the HR department. I know someone who was fired from their job even though they only missed a day of work. They used their infamous jail phone call to call in sick for work so they wouldn't be a "no call, no show," but that didn't save them. Someone at work must have been a fan of the police department's website, because they knew all about the arrest when they came in to work the next day. An hour after their shift started, they were walking out unemployed because in that long and lengthy company policy manual, management had grounds to fire them. Soon they were seeking alternative methods of funding their alcohol treatment.
SchoolGrants and scholarships come with special requirements, so it's a given that a DUI criminal charge will impact student aid. Federal grants may be lost forever, and anyone attending student on a scholarship can expect to lose their free tuition check. Even student loans may be denied for DUI offenses.