The MADD Victim Impact Panel (VIP)

Mothers Against Drunk Driving… Who could argue against that? We all agree that drinking and driving is awful… what kind of awful person would go against this organization?

Well, after this whole experience… probably you.

One of the odder requirements the court has for you is to attend a MADD Victim Impact Panel (MADD VIP class).

I cannot, for the life of me, think of another instance where somebody who is sentenced for a crime has to go to a specific lobbyist organization and give money to them. Even if you’re sentenced to a rehabilitation program you don’t have to join AA, you can join AlAnon or other options that align with your views (such as one of those swanky $10,000/month outpatient treatments).

But with a DUI you’re forced to give MADD $50. There’s no other options.

I’m not here to say that MADD is a bad or even misguided organization (
there’s plenty of criticism against them here) but I will say they’ve had an overly large effect on this nation’s laws (they’re responsible for tying Federal highway funds to the .08 limit) and that requiring somebody to go to their class and pay for it seems like a kickback to me.

But who’s to say?

The Victim Impact Panel

The class you’re required to is, honestly, another waste of your time. It’s about two hours of family members describing how wonderful a loved one of theirs was, and how they lost their life, or suffered great injury, due to a drunk driver. It’s supposed to put a face to all the pain and suffering that could’ve happened due to your actions. I suppose it may be helpful to some - but with your DUI classes you’re forced to go to, you have plenty of people telling similar stories, and before too long you become completely numb to them. Perhaps it is different for people to see a person who was affected, but I’d heard enough stories at this point. I got it. I understood.

It’s an uncomfortable event and it’s best to just put your head down and get it over with. The important thing is to pre-register for the class (you really don’t want to show up and for it to be full so that you have to go again), and to show up on time.
DO NOT BE LATE. BE EARLY. PLAN FOR MISERABLE PARKING. If you’re late you may not be allowed in, and your pre-payment will not transfer to your new time. When I went they did not allow pre-payments and you had to get a money order to attend. Ridiculous. Now they allow credit cards for pre-registrations, but if you decide to show up you need a money order. It feels that we should be past being unable to take forms of payment in this day and age, especially for something you’re forced to do, but apparently not.

Get there early, check in (bring whatever you’re using as an ID), and then get comfy. Bathroom breaks are regimented so that people don’t hide out there. Don’t sleep, don’t be on your phone. If the people running it feel that you are not paying adequate attention they can refuse to honor your attendance. Be awake, pay attention, don’t chance it. It’s long, but not the longest thing in the world. Get through it. Clap when everybody else does. Look miserable (ok, that part is not hard). The best trick I can tell you: sit in the first three or four rows. They usually get out earlier since everybody tries to sit in the back or middle. Be a good student.

Once your lecture is over, you’ll be dismissed by rows, sent to a single file line where you’ll be greeted by every speaker, who is sure to give you a look like you’re a complete jerk. It’s a humiliating process, and that’s what they want it to be. Look them back, say “sorry for your loss” or “thank you for sharing”, be polite, be gracious. It’s almost over.

They’ll then lead you to a person who you’ll give your name and show your ID to again. Then they will ask you to make a donation - you've already paid $50 and an evening for this, so I declined. If you feel it was worth more, then do what you will. I can't imagine paying on top of this, however.

Then the big moment comes: They give you your completion certificate. Hold on to this with your life. If you lose it they might make you take it again. Or they might make you pay $25. Depends on how “generous” the MADD branch is. Either way, it’s very valuable. Take a picture of it. You’ll then either give it to your lawyer to file, or turn it in to the court yourself. Get a receipt.

It’s a ridiculous event they make you attend, and I do not know how much it helps anything. It’s absurd to force people to patronize a specific organization, and unbelievable that they’d make you go to something to shame you.

But there’s no choice.

Get it over with, get it out the way, and move on. Turn the paper in, check off the box.

You’re one step closer to being free of this.

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