Guest Post: Getting Home Safely

Dale Vernor reached out to me via my contact page, and asked to share his thoughts on alternatives to driving drunk. He emphasized that due to the time of year, this information needs to be out there as much as possible, and I agreed. Dale is a writer and researcher in the fields of mental health and substance abuse. He enjoys discussions on politics. - Tom

It’s 2 a.m. The bartender has announced last call and you know you have to get home, but you’ve been drinking pretty steadily all night. Or, your friend’s party could be ending and you’re feeling a little buzzed.

In either case, driving home isn’t worth it. If you try driving home, you could get into an accident that hurts you or others or does serious property damage. Even if you’re lucky enough to avoid an accident, you could be charged
with a DUI or face other legal trouble.

December holidays and New Year’s celebrations can be particularly dangerous. Many people drink during these celebrations and might get behind the wheel when its dark, the weather can be bad, and roads can be icy. In 2017, the U.S. Department of Transportation noted, “Nationally, over the past five years, an
average of 300 people died in drunk driving crashes the week between Christmas and New Year.”

So what can you do during the holiday season or any other time when you are out drinking to avoid getting a DUI?

  • Call a friend or family member. You would be surprised how many friends and family members would hop out of bed during a dead sleep to come and pick you up. Sure, it might feel a little embarrassing at first. Sure, you might feel guilty for waking them up late at night. But, a little initial embarrassment and guilt is far better than the pain and trouble you could experience if you cause a deadly accident or receive a DUI.

  • Assign a Designated Driver. If you have a group of friends that go out a lot for drinks, rotating the DD is the most fair way to go about this. Taking the time to call a friend, call a cab service or ride sharing company, or getting a designated driver could save you court costs, jail time or even court ordered alcohol rehab.

  • Call a taxi or ride sharing service. Yes, this cost money but compared to court costs a taxi or an Uber is way less expensive. Yes, it is inconvenient to have to go back and get your car the next day, but driving drunk and risking a DUI and staying the night in jail, if not longer is far more inconvenient than getting your car the next day.

You’re not the first person who has had too much to drink and needs a ride home. You won’t be the last. Drunk driving is not worth the risk, the consequences of accidents and DUIs are long-term. Don’t let feelings of bothering someone for a ride, or the cost of a taxi deter you from getting home safe.


DUI and Fatalities

I was fortunate in my case that there was no accident, no injuries, and no fatalities. You may not have been so lucky, in which case - again - I’m sorry. I cannot begin to imagine the pain and guilt that’s weighing on yourself, and the grief you’re catching from others. You may be wishing that it was you that died, you may be thinking some dark thoughts. While I cannot condone your actions, I cannot condemn you as a human being for one instance, one mistake.

As I’ve experienced from this whole saga, the person who beat me up the most was me. I got deeply depressed for a while, and I am still crawling out from the grief and sorrow of all of this. You can still live a good and meaningful life. It’s awful this happened, but it doesn’t have to define you for the rest of your life. If you are having dark and troubling thoughts please call: 1 (800) 273-8255

If there’s a fatality involved your case becomes a lot more complicated. It’s more difficult to give a decent idea of what you’re looking at. For this I would say
absolutely get a lawyer involved as it’s going to be very difficult to navigate.

From worst to first here’s the various outcomes:

2nd Degree Homicide.
Gulp. Even if you weren’t involved in an accident just seeing that word involved with your case is scary. It’s a reminder to never drink and drive if you can help it at all. Once you’re convicted of your first DUI you have to sign a
Watson advisement, which acknowledges that if you kill somebody in your second (or more) DUI then it can be charged as homicide. Just signing the document is scary enough… and it’s something that will stay in the back of your mind as you continue your life. If you’re found guilty the most severe penalties are up to 10 years in prison, $10,000 in fines and a charge of a Felony DUI.

Gross Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated
A lot of scary terms here. This one is a little bit more complicated - and you can get this one on your first offense. Basically this means that you were intoxicated and you were acting grossly negligent - and it’s a rather large thing to prove. For instance, this is what you’d be convicted of if you were completely wasted (let’s say .25) and ran through a stoplight at 60 miles per hour and hit somebody who was making a turn through the intersection and killed them. Everything you did was in gross negligence of the law, and everything you did directly lead to the person who died. If you are found to be only ordinarily negligent, you cannot be charged with this. This is heavy lawyer territory. This charge is a felony and you can serve anywhere from 4-16 years in prison, face a $10,000 fine, and be charged with a felony DUI.

Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated
There’s two degrees to this charge - Felony and Misdemeanor. Unfortunately, there’s no clear line to say this is where they’ll charge you for one, and this is where they’ll charge you for the other. It depends on how negligent you’re found, your BAC, the amount of people killed, etc. If you just missed being found grossly negligent from above, you’ll most likely find yourself facing the felony version. The felony version can give you up to ten years in prison, a $10,000 fine, and a strike on your record, along with your felony DUI. The misdemeanor version tops out at $1,000 fine, a year in prison, but you can still be charged with a felony DUI instead of a misdemeanor DUI.
As you can see, when lives are taken, the system gets to be incredibly complicated. There’s no solid limits, and everything is up for interpretation. Which, honestly, can be good and bad, depending on your level of representation. At this point, it’s a good idea to get the best lawyer that you can’t afford, max out the credit cards, and pray for the best.

Once again, it’s all not worth it. It’s really not.

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