From an emotional standpoint, a case where someone is accused driving under the influence and killing another person is one of the toughest. With the victim, you usually have someone who did not deserve to die. They are often young, in the prime of their lives. They are usually also close to the driver. The victim is often a spouse, girlfriend, boyfriend, or sibling of the accused. Unfortunately, that person is not available to express forgiveness to the driver.
As for the driver, you often have a person who has never been in trouble in his life. He may be college educated, have a great job, and a loving family. But for this horrible incident he would have continued to be an upstanding citizen.
Recently, a San Jose woman pled guilty to gross vehicular manslaughter after hitting and killing a 79 year old grandmother. She is waiting to be sentenced by a Santa Clara County judge. Her maximum possible sentence is 12 years in the state prison. In fact, the judge is precluded from granting this woman probation unless he finds “unusual circumstances” where the interests of justice require it. According to statements, the family of the victim has forgiven the defendant, and believes that the victim would forgive her as well. Unfortunately, California DUI sentencing law provides somewhat less opportunity for the Court to forgive her.
As a former prosecutor, I can tell you that, regardless of the outcome, nobody wins in these cases. Regardless of what side you are on there is nothing but tragedy in these cases. An innocent victim loses her life, and a contrite survivor is cast into the hell of the California prison system.
Over the last three years, Staunton’s law enforcement has been the most stringent by area authorities, according to statistics. In 2006, Staunton police arrested 121 motorists and in 2007, this number jumped to 183. Last year, there were 174 DUI arrests.
When Officer Lisa Klein, a spokeswoman for the Staunton Police Department, was asked why the number of arrests went down in 2008, she said that she thought the public was getting the message that driving under the influence in Staunton was not going to be tolerated. “I do think people are responding. We’ve been hitting it pretty hard,” said Klein.
According to Klein, there were no directives from top brass to target intoxicated drivers, but the fresh batch of police officers could have had an affect on the number of DUI arrests.
Staunton law enforcement has led the way in DUI arrests with a total of 478 arrests over the past three years. Waynesboro arrested 395 suspected drunk drivers and the Augusta County Sheriff’s Office arrested 195 drivers. Area 17 was placed first in “Operation Checkpoint Strikeforce” two of the last three years.
Miles Bobbit, director of Staunton’s Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (VASAP) said that DUI referrals to his organization have been increasing by 100 per year. He said that the agency is on track to continue that trend this year.
The financial costs of a DUI arrest are high, which include towing bills, storage fees, court costs and fines, jail costs, lost work days, VASAP expenses and increased insurance fees.
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