Alcohol is probably the most abused substance in the world. Millions of Americans are dealing with this problem with up to 10% of alcohol users being alcohol-dependent. Some research indicate there are 3 times as many males as females who are alcohol depended. A lot more users are under 45 years of age, apparently a critical age, with most of the death from alcohol abuse falling below 45 years mark. More people in the 15-45 age group die from alcohol misuse then from any other cause, with an estimated yearly figure for all age groups in the 200,000 range. A third of suicide and half of traffic death are connected to alcohol use by people in this age category. Also, the financial cost to the US economy is staggering, with a loss of productivity in the 10th of billions of dollars and with approximated twenty percent of all hospital expenditures connected to alcohol consumption related treatment. The total fatalities in alcohol related crashes are estimated at 15 thousand persons per year, approximately a third of all traffic fatalities.
Because of such high cost to society and individuals, public policy over the years focused extensively on targeting drunk driving offenses. Prosecutors across the nation can and do charge murders when deaths caused by drunk drivers. Simply, politics, manifested by popular opinion, influences criminal justice system, which, instead of focusing on the intention to cause harm, focuses on the consequences of unintended actions. In other words, from the mens rea (aka guilty mind) analysis, there is no difference between someone who is driving in a dangerous manner but causes no injury to an innocent bystander, and someone who is driving in a dangerous manner and causes an injury to an innocent bystander. Yet, because of this unintended injury, the drunk driver who causes an injury will be charged with a more serious offense, an will spend more time in jail or prison, if convicted. A first offender DUI driver in Los Angeles who causes no injury will receive no jail time. A first offender DUI driver who causes a serious injury to someone will be lucky to get one year in a county jail. Yes, off course I do sympathize with victims and their family, but punishing someone who did not intend this horrific consequence of his action is not helpful to public policy. Victims are rarely objective and yet we let their pain come into the courtroom and influence the judges and prosecutors. An attorney’s job sometime is to counteract that public policy influence and show to the court a defendant who is in pain for what happened and may be have no control over his addiction. Thus, defense attorneys job is not only to fight the prosecutor tooth and nail but also to portray a defendant in the most favorable light so that, despite overwhelming evidence of guilt, the punishment can “fit the crime” and significant jail-time can be avoided. The defendant can suffer greatly and live with the guilt of his crime. But destroying one more life makes poor public policy. It if far better to direct public policy towards treatment and avoiding drunk driving all together, perhaps by using technology (such as ignition interlock devices), then by locking up defendants who made poor choices that caused horrible results.
If you or your loved one is arrested for drunk driving, please call our office (818) 921 7744 immediately to receive a free non-obligatory consultation. You will be able to talk with an attorney directly and receive competent advice. We accept all credit card and offer great payment plan.