A Lingering Image

Another one of those stories that just begs for a photo. From True’s 9 March 2008 issue:

Crime of Intoxication

Stephanie Pochron, 30, must spend six months in jail after a drunk driving accident, but she has something to come home to: the smashed car she was driving. The car was ordered towed to her Wanatah, Ind., front yard by the judge in the case, and he has ruled that it must stay there during her entire three-year probation. Pochron caused the crash, hitting a vehicle that then went out of control and crashed into a third car, which rolled with a family inside. One man was seriously injured. This was Pochron’s third conviction for drunk driving. “I’m never going to drink again,” she said. (Northwest Indiana Times) …Of course, three years of having to look at the car will drive her to drink.

Leave it for the duration: Pochron’s smashed car, sitting in front of her house. (Photo ©2008 the Northwest Indiana Times, reprinted with permission.)

And here’s the photo. Do you think this sort of punishment will help deter other drunk drivers? Or is it just an eyesore for the neighborhood that really could drive a guilt-ridden woman to drink? You can post your comments below.

(A previous drunk driving story with photo — an Ohio firefighter wearing a wig and a woman’s bikini — brought a lot of comment from readers. People are clearly mighty tired of drunk drivers.)

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104 Comments on “A Lingering Image

  1. I don’t know how much this will deter drunk drivers. The Air Force put a new wrecked car at the main gate every month or so, but there were always more DUIs in the squadron roster on Monday morning.

    I do know that this is going to seriously tick off the neighbors. In a time when housing prices are hitting all-time lows, and owners are needing to sell fast or risk foreclosure and bankruptcy, something like this is going to ruin the impression buyers have of the neighborhood. Three years is long enough for a number of owners to want to move away.

    So why is the whole neighborhood being seriously punished for one moron? After all, it’s not like the neighbors had a choice on whether or not she moved there.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the neighbors got a lawyer of their own to get this ruling changed.

  2. This will not keep her from drinking but it sure will make her neighbors mad. Good thing she doesn’t live in some of our cities here in Southern California. She would get cited for violation of city ordinances and face the possibility of losing her house because the City can sue you to force you to remove inoperative vehicles from your property. I don’t think they would care that a Judge ordered it to be there.

  3. Justice would be better served if she was ordered to spend the same time in custody, kicking her addiction… and thinking about what she did. Why subject innocent people to such an eye-sore… a week maybe – but not three years!

  4. I think it’s rather appropriate that the car will annoy her neighbors. Let us hope that the neighbors focus their anger where it belongs; on her, not on the judge. Perhaps then she’ll get the lesson intended: that her actions, for good or ill, really do affect others whether they deserve it or not.

  5. Well, I think it’s more of a “let’s see what comes of this” idea than provoking a guaranteed outcry from her neighbors. The picture seems to indicate a not very dense neighborhood anyway. Clearly, like many of us, this judge is hoping to find some effective way to stop chronic drunk drivers, and he is experimenting with the idea of obliterating their usual invisibility.

    Who knows what will work with these cases? I am given to understand that in Sweden even one DUI receives a $10,000 fine and loss of one’s driver’s license for a year, and that it has been very effective. If that’s true (is it, Randy?), then maybe that’s the way to start.

  6. This will upset the neighbours and have no effect on the driver, but it may have more effect on her if they cut it down to the front seats only and replace her lounge with the car’s front seats. That will give her a constant reminder dozens of times a day when she sits to watch television. I think the judge forgot some people don’t go out during the day and so won’t see it.

  7. I doubt it will help her stop drinking, especially if the first two DWI’s didn’t sober her up. Fortunately it looks like she doesn’t have any close neighbors, or the sight of that car for three years may drive some of them to drink!

  8. Her continued ability to drink and drive can probably only occur with the at least tacit consent of her neighbors and society in general. Of course, if they don’t know what is happening, they are not able to do anything, and if they consider the prevention of crime to be someone else’s (the police’s) job, they also won’t do anything personally to prevent it.

    Putting the car in her yard is a step in the right direction, but it might be even more effective if they required a sign explaining that the car was smashed because she was a third time drunk driver. Otherwise, she could tell people that she was the one hit by someone else. I’m definitely not sympathetic to HER situation, though I do feel some sympathy for her neighbors. As our culture currently functions, I’m not sure what good it will do to irritate her neighbors, they can’t do much about her drinking, unless she is getting drunk at neighborhood BBQs and local parties, in which case they could refuse to serve her at those functions. I find it unlikely that the shaming would prevent her from drinking, she would be more likely to just relocate elsewhere and continue.

    The sentence only makes effective sense, to me, if the judge is trying to motivate her neighbors to get personally involved in some way, perhaps to follow her around and prevent her from drinking and driving by some sort of physical intervention? Or at least encouraging her neighbors to call the police when ever they see her driving intoxicated. Requiring prominent posting of her photo in local bars and clubs, with a stipulation that she not be served intoxicating substances might be helpful.

    If society in general were taking personal responsibility for each of our protection, enough that having everyone who knows her situation be proactive enough to call the police and report her driving, each time she drinks and drives, and actually physically restraining her from doing so, this sort of situation would happen much less frequently. It might help if a DUI conviction was followed by mandatory imprisonment for every offense from the second time onwards. By the third strike in this offense, I’d be voting for life in prison. No matter how wonderful she might be the rest of the time, she does not have the right to make the choice to endanger others’ lives.

    • Excuse me? Are you implying that anyone except the drunk woman has any responsibility for her actions? She alone is responsible for her drunk driving. Her neighbors, society, and the courts are not responsible. However, the courts could do more to force the issue. Beyond that, nobody else has anything to do with it. It is both illegal and immoral to try to control another person’s life. Do not say or imply that her drunk driving is occurring because of the neighbors’ and society’s “tacit consent.”

  9. The point about the neighbours and the eyesore factor is well made. Perhaps it should be placed in her lounge room.

  10. This is yet another sad example of a Judge not considering the true result of his rulings. Bravo for wanting to take drastic measures against a repeat offender, but why punish her neighbors? Why not just keep her in jail longer – where she belongs? Six months for ruining a family’s life is too short. She WILL end up killing someone.

  11. Maybe it’s because I’m from the Detroit area and am therefore something of a car aficionado… But the wreck doesn’t really look all that bad to me. The hood crumpled like it’s supposed to in a crash, with the area between the front bumper and the front of the passenger compartment designed to take the impact of the crash, and leave the passenger part of the car alone. From the front of the front door on back, this car appears to be in near-perfect shape.

    As to the neighbors, this is probably no worse than, say, someone who puts up enough of a Christmas light display that it attracts traffic… If the judge is frustrated at how other attempts to get people to quit drinking & driving aren’t working, I commend him/her for trying something new. But I think I would have picked a case with a car that is just clearly wrecked beyond recognition.

    The real, point, of course, isn’t how bad her car is, but rather her victims’. Maybe the judge should have had their car(s) towed to her front yard. -rc

  12. Randy, you said “People are clearly mighty tired of drunk drivers”. This may be misleading; it would probably be more accurate to say “Some people are…” or “Some vocal people are…”.

    Denise, the Army does the same (plus a sign showing the number of days since the last vehicle death of any cause), so it’s probably a DoD-wide thing.

    Jan, I’d be surprised if the judge has any authority to tell the local jurisdictions not to enforce ordinances. Thus, I feel sure that she’ll be up before the judge VERY soon for probation violation.
    Ruth, probation and home detention are MUCH cheaper than jail, especially with the right support programs; that’s OUR tax money paying for it.

    This morning, I saw a banner on post that said something like “Drunk driving is a death penalty”, which I thought was pointedly right on target.

    I’m surprised that recidivist drunk drivers who kill someone aren’t getting charged with premeditated murder (or attempted murder, when a non-deadly “accident” occurs), when it can be shown that they were not coerced into drinking.

  13. When I read the story, my first reaction was that there are local zoning ordinances, city code, that supersedes any judge’s order. Neighbors would not even need to file a motion or suit, but simply contact City Hall. But the question remains, exactly what would a judge expect neighbors to do? Call the police every time she gets in a car, because she MIGHT be drunk? The police don’t need constant haranguing about it. Does the judge expect the neighborhood to adopt a kind of vigilante code? That’s exactly the reason there ARE laws and sentencing guidelines to deal with such issues.

    As for the sight being a detriment to anyone passing by, rest assured that it will NEVER happen. Those inclined to get a lesson from it already know it, and those that don’t will always believe that THEY’RE too much an expert driver to ever experience such an incident.

  14. It would be a more effective punishment if the vehicle had been more seriously damaged or if you could see a gin bottle in the window. As it is, it’s just an eyesore for the community and will quickly become something that Pochran will not even notice after a few days. As a deterrent, it is suspect as to whether it will have any effect at all. I would seriously doubt it.

  15. Many municipalities have ordinances that prohibit people from keeping inoperable ‘junk’ cars in their yard; if there is such an ordinance in this case, then the judge does not have the authority to override it or force her to violate it.

    A bit too ‘creative’ for my taste; the first thing I thought of was the eyesore it creates for the neighborhood.

  16. I think it is brilliant. I agree that the neighbours suffer but only a little and they know it goes after three years.

    As for Stephanie Pochron, it will be a constant eyesore, reminding her each time she leaves or returns to the house. Think of that 365 days a year for 3 years. It has gotta sink in to her tiny little brain then.

    It might not work but surely worth a try. I think it is great to see a creative judge. I wish they were here.

  17. Blah blah ordinances, codes & pseudo psych about learning & neighbors. Her family & neighbors knew all along & didn’t call the law on her, repeatedly, repeatedly, repeatedly!

    This may not fix this woman’s problem, but if we have to tolerate her behavior we should at least get to do childish torturing things to her to make us feel better. LOL… Shrink that!

    About 70% of the time, firm loving interventions work.

  18. It may have been more effective (though probably less legal/enforcable) if she had been forced to live IN the car rather than just with it!

  19. The judge is simply fed up. When our nephew was killed drunk driving after a teen age drinking party, one of our brothers (not the boy’s father) who works for the fire department wanted to put the car in the local parade on a few weeks later. His car was smashed and burnt beyond recognition. Of course this didn’t happen. Some people thought it was too ghoulish and might upset some people.

    What did happen was the local kids held another drinking party to remember him. The day of the funeral the priest got up in front of everybody and told his friends present that his death was a waste and unnecessary. While some of the people there thought it was great and if it got through to even one person it was worth it. Others were mad as heck. All the kids knew this guy had a terrible drinking problem and always drove drunk, nobody took his keys. In fact they cited this as a good thing he knew how to have fun and told how they inspired to be more like him. Until drinking and driving stops being seen as cool this will continue to happen. As it was there were several underage drinking parties held in his honor. So the kids really learned a lot from his death.

  20. From the angle of the photo, it doesn’t look like the neighbors are close enough to worry about an ordinance code. One distant neighbor, and lots of empty land behind the house, it looks fairly rural.

    I think it would make a better deterrent if the crashed front end were facing the house so she’d see it every time she looked out her window. Still, I could think of a few better things to sentence her to – visits to the family she crashed into so she can hear about the kid’s nightmares, a bedside visit to the guy with serious injuries, a photo of the wrecked car(s) on a keychain.

  21. Well the judge has made his point and the “warning” has been seen far and wide now. I would respectfully suggest he rescinds his order and has this eyesore towed away.

  22. Well, I would think that perhaps a sign should be displayed next to the car, as to why this smashed up car is in this driveway. The sign should state the whole story, from beginning to end and when the car can be removed. I would also like the sign to state the true cost of the accident to all cars involved and the costs of all people whom were injured and if they ever recovered fully.

  23. It’s about time some creative “punishments” caused a long-lasting effect on drink drivers, longer than the hangover at least, and the driver should be repeatedly thoroughly ashamed of the resulting mess, instead of ‘out of sight= out of mind’ as often occurs. An injury resulting from drink driving can be even more permanent.

  24. How come everyone is worried about the neighbors living near a damaged car body, but not about someone repeatedly causing a real human body damage? You would rather live near that? That’s what drink drivers do, isn’t it? Their body or the victim’s, it works both ways? You would rather live near a tidy murderer than- ????

  25. I find all these concerns about the neighbors appalling. This drunk driver is a menace to the entire neighborhood. Since society refuses to elect officials and judges that will adequately punish drunk drivers, the next best thing is embarrassment. I think those that post otherwise must be afraid of their own foibles.

  26. I agree that it is only an eyesore for the neighborhood. Her punishment was the 6 months in jail. What did the neighborhood do to deserve being punished?

  27. I am torn, frankly, between congratulating the judge and saying ‘too far’. On one hand, we could start handing out T-shirts that must be worn by every criminal, publicly marking them as ‘rapist’, ‘drug dealer’, ‘thief’, etc… while they’re on probation (or just use scarlet letters….)

    On the other hand, if she has any sense of decency, it has to be a sobering reminder to her every time she leaves her house. Perhaps the punishment will drill into her that she needs to get this under control.

    Of course, this all could have been prevented by locking her up….after all, she did HURT someone.

  28. Third conviction for drunk driving? Apparently the first two sentences weren’t very effective. If the judge wants to do something to prevent this sort of tragedy in the future, I would suggest he have the car displayed in front of the courthouse. This could serve as a reminder to all the judges the consequences of letting drunk drivers off easy.

    Excellent point! -rc

  29. There should be a sign on the front of the car that reads “Drunk Driver Lives Here.” Then everyone will know that it’s a punishment and the car should prove even more shameful to the driver.

  30. I can see where the judge would rule for this. The car looks relatively new, and I would suspect that she is still making payments on it. I would also hope that the insurance company is NOT going to be paying off on it, so the judge’s ruling to have it sit there where she can see it daily (while still paying on it) would be a great deterrent.

  31. In many cases, it goes without saying that criminals are stupid (driving drunk is stupid). In some cases, so is a particular judge. I.e., ordering someone to keep a junked car in their driveway is “not so smart”. It will soon become just part of the background for the drunk but it will always be an eyesore for the neighbors. Say judge, does “decreased property values due to junk cars” sound familiar?

  32. Come on, folks. Get a life!

    Even if Pochron were to “not notice” after a few days, I am sure her neighbors would remind her. You can bet I would every !@#$%^&* day of how stupid she was! And G-d help her if she ever tried to “get revenge” on me for reminding her. I lost a future great-niece because of a drunk driver and nearly lost her mother as well. Mom was three weeks prior to normal delivery when she was hit by a drunk driver. There is only one punishment I think would be more suitable: prison. Tell the neighbors if they don’t like it, tough.

  33. I doubt there is ANYTHING that will “work” in the sense of “guarantee she doesn’t drive drunk again”. T’ain’t never no such guarantees nohow.

    But I don’t see the harm in trying. Let the neighbors consider what would happen if she’d come home drunk and driven into THEIR driveway … or into their living room.

    Yes, it’s a hassle for the neighbors. Having neighbors often involves hassle. If they wish to enforce a local ordinance against junk cars, they may be able to force its departure; the judge would not punish the drunk for the actions of the neighbors.

    But the neighbors might better take a good look at that car every time THEY drive. Show it to their teenagers, too. I doubt she’s the only drinker in the neighborhood.

  34. I think she should have to keep the car in her garage instead of out in the driveway where it’s an eye sore for the neighborhood.

    It would still be an inconvenience for her – as well as an expense. They could also make her keep the garage door open with the damaged area in full view. She’d have to keep the insurance and tags current for an unoperable vehicle.

  35. We constantly have news stories about WI residents being arrested for the 5th, 6th or 7th DUI. I think a better idea would be to make her wear the steering wheel around her neck whenever she leaves the house.

  36. Car should be in front of window facing toward house.

    Neighbors sensibilities should be taken into consideration.

    What ever happened to jail time??????

    Read the story again. She got it. -rc

  37. This being her third DUI conviction, especially after such a serious accident, six months jail time is a joke. Her sentence should be measured in years, not months. The public has a right to expect protection from this despicable woman and others like her.

  38. It would be even better if the judge made her stand in front of the car for 10 hours a week during daylight hours carrying a sign that says “I Drove Drunk And Caused A Crash In Which People Were Injured”.

  39. First, the car serves as a visual reminder to the neighborhood of the consequences of drinking and driving, extending the impact beyond the (formerly, one hopes) drunk driver’s forced self-examination. “There but for the grace of god go I,” is a humbling and ‘sobering’ realization.

    Second, the community is placed on notice that they too carry the costs of intoxicated driving and have responsibility to do their part to prevent it. Undoubtedly, the neighbors serving cocktails to their friends will be slightly more responsible hosts.

    Folks, we lose tens of thousands of people each year to drunk driving. As someone who has removed mangled corpses, those of perpetrators and victims alike, from destroyed vehicles, after futile efforts to save them, a wrecked car in the neighborhood is a trifling inconvenience.

  40. I think a lot of people miss the point of the Judge (even your honor “Bill”). I don’t think that the Judge in question is trying to get her neighbors to act vigilante style, or trying to deter other people. It is a constant reminder to the person who committed the act, of the consequences of their decisions. I commend the judge in his creative methods. Everyone has complained about the “eyesore” that it creates. What about the people that that woman injured with that car and her drinking?

    One point of this, you may say that all Judge’s actions should also be a deterrent to other people from committing the same acts, but most times it is Jail or community service that people receive. Neither of those actions acts as a deterrent to other people. You simply do not have the constant reminder.

    This act serves to remind the person that it was THEIR fault, and not the fault of the Judge that sentenced them, or their lawyer who didn’t get them off.

  41. Perhaps parts of her car in her living room and kitchen for when she thinks about drinking. Outside it just punishes her neighbors. Oh and some pictures of the persons that were injured. But the bottom line is not an external reminder, what will it take to have her recognize her responsibility?

  42. The problem with this type of “punishment” is that all the other fools who drive drunk will simply look at it and say “Well, that would never happen to ME!”

    Meanwhile, all the talking and ridicule in the world doesn’t deter car crash fatalities.

  43. The judge failed to adequately punish the woman. Third DWI, someone seriously injured, which probably means a LIFETIME of suffering and medical expense (ever had a back or neck injury? It’s the gift which keeps on giving): this woman needs to do serious jail time, have her house sold to pay for the injured party’s injuries and ongoing expenses, have her license revoked, and never permitted to drive again, period.

    When they lock a man up for up to 30 years for snorting crack, it seems that seriously injuring someone needs more than a slap on the wrist and an eyesore for the neighbors.

    The judge erred.

  44. I think the lesson would be better learned by the accused as well as by potential drunk drivers, if a huge poster showing the victims was installed in the front yard, as I agree with Tracy in Michigan, most people will take the “that’ll never happen to me” attitude, but a picture is worth a thousand words as they say. Drunk drivers who have hurt, maimed and killed others, should be forced to live with constant reminders of their stupidity and in my opinion should be sentenced accordingly.

  45. That looks like a fairly new car (can’t tell what kind). Who is paying for it to sit unrepaired and unused for three years?

    Lots of judges sentence drunk drivers to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, a plan that is at least as likely to be successful as this.

  46. I would rather use the public shame and humiliation route than take a tax paying citizen off the rolls so I can pay for their care and feeding in jail. Something like 1 in 150 American citizens are currently in jail? We can’t afford that.

    Worse: it’s closer to 1 in 100. -rc

  47. Instead of punishing the criminal the judge decides to punish the community. Ms. Pochron is now the victim, since she will be ordered to clean up the junked car either by her city/county (under property maintenance) or by the subdivision (covenants). “Poor me, the judge ordered me to do this”.

    Did the judge even think about if she were to move to an apartment building or even a condominium? As an ex-planner I can attest to the fact most junk cars violate nuisance regulations and contribute to blighted neighborhoods.

    Ms. Pochron is many things, but I don’t think she can include the title of “victim.” -rc

  48. A large sign on the car could take care of it and shame to owner. That’s the problem: we have no shame anymore and we fail to take responsibility for our actions.

  49. Quick, let’s all pick up some stones!

    When did Judges become parents?

    Ever since the people coming in front of them acted like children. -rc

  50. While I admire the Judge’s requirement, I still wonder the if it will keep the drunk drivers off the roads.

    What good would it do if it continues to “drive” the defendant to “drink?”

    I mean, there’s a CHANCE it may be an effective result IF the defendant is not an alcoholic, but, are there any general statistics that may claim that alcoholics are, most times repeat offenders, and, that even forcing them to rehabs don’t help?

    GREAT article, though. But, I think there should be a 3- strikes-your-out law that prevents any person convicted of drunk driving a third time from ever being licensed to drive for the rest of their lives.

  51. For what it’s worth, she’s in Wanatah, IN, not a city or even a suburb. I’m not sure Stephanie Pochron can be said to have neighbors in the sense most people are using the word.

    Her address is easily found in news reports, and it’s clear from the overhead view that it’s the house in Randy’s picture:

    Google Maps link

    The house is about 500′ back from the road, and the car would be visible to maybe one other house. Beyond the initial press coverage, I think the public embarrassment aspect of this is pretty low.

    Interesting idea to look up the address (which was included with the original story). Unfortunately, the arrow on the resulting map lands between two houses; the one to the north definitely isn’t it (it has a bend in it; the house in the photo doesn’t). But even then, I’m not sure it’s the house to the south, either: the photo shows a mature tree behind the car, which I don’t see in the satellite shot. But the house does look the same. Quite a rural area. -rc

  52. The judge could just as easily have had her wear a Hester Prynne letter sweater with the letters “DD” instead of “A”.

    Secondly, to add to Marc’s, from Boston, post, looking at the picture my first thought was “What Neighbors?”. This place is obviously quite a distance from others, at least from this view. There are probably enough junk cars and farm implements around that this will hardly be noticed.

  53. Cars in the yard are swell, but I like the idea of fining people $10,000 for their first offense better. We do have a national debt to pay off, you know.

    Also, if you really want to humiliate somebody a la the Scarlet Letter, you should make them wear a baseball cap that tells the world what they did. That would really annoy people, especially feminine women, and unlike somebody else’s T-shirt idea, it’s a little difficult to hide it under some other piece of clothing.

  54. At least they could have specified that it be turned around so she has to look at the damage. It would also help with the eyesore factor from the street.

    Rural Satellite photos don’t get updated as often on the net… That tree was probably planted to hide the Propane tank out back.

    I also am a fan of the requirement for breathalyzers installed in repeat offender cars requiring them to periodically retest or having the car ignition cut off. This keeps them from getting someone to unlock the ignition for them. Not perfect but better than a drunks promise!

  55. I am of the mind that drunk drivers should forfeit the vehicle if it’s not in a crash plus an automatic removal of the license plus addiction counseling.

  56. Any ‘stress’ (an overused word if there ever was one) the neighbours might feel about an ‘eyesore’ in their neighbourhood, is more than outweighed by this dramatic and valuable reminder to teen and adult drivers alike of the cost of drunk driving. The lives saved and injuries prevented would never be measurable, but would indeed be real.

    Perhaps we should drop off a drunk-driving-wreck in many more in-your-face locations, and watch the stats carefully!

  57. I think the judge had a real good idea to have the car towed to her front yard. Not only will it remind her of the consequences of drunk driving, but it will also be a deterrent for the neighbors AND anyone driving/walking by who sees it. I think more judges in our country should do similar things in like circumstances.

  58. We need to make the consequences harsh enough to deter this type of behavior. Why punish the entire neighborhood, that seems like grade school.

    1st offense – Loss of vehicle total reimbursement for all damage caused to victims
    2nd offense – Permanent loss of License + 1st offense rules
    3rd offense – Incarceration for 5+ years + rule 1

    Death related offenses are treated the same as 1st degree murder with up to permanent incarceration

    All offenses must have mandatory substance abuse treatment, the cost of which is paid for by taxing liquor sales.

  59. To those of us with a conscience and whom take responsibility for our actions, this “seems” to be a good deterrent…. BUT, Come on now, do you HONESTLY think this will REALLY bother someone with THREE DUI convictions??? Most of those folks NEVER see, let alone ADMIT that THEY have a problem with drinking! But issues like this don’t always cause these folks to see that THEY are the problem…and until they are either ready to admit to this, or dead, nothing will change.

    Our lax laws allow too many to be on the road with numerous convictions, when after the FIRST one, the car/truck, or whatever vehicle driven, should be taken and they have to find other means of transportation, & pay restitution to the victims. IF they obtain another vehicle and get ANOTHER DUI, then, besides the ticket, revoking of license, paying restitution to the victims, 6 months in jail….a third offense would lock them up for a minimum of two years, Plus the restitution to the victims and loss of license and vehicle. Nothing is a cure, but keeping them off the streets may keep a few innocents alive longer.

  60. I wonder how long it will be before strangers start to strip the car of its usable parts? Looks like it had a couple of good wheels there, pretty soon her car will be up on bricks. Back doors look Ok also, wonder when they will disappear?

  61. Maybe if they put it directly outside the garage or directly across the driveway that would prevent her from driving in the future. Why she is even allowed out after 6 months is a complete mystery. Removing licenses doesn’t seem to make any difference – if people are content with drunk driving then driving without a license is also unlikely to bother them.

    Ohio’s idea of a yellow license plate for dui offenders is also crazy as most users have no idea what a yellow plate means so the stigma is a lot less than it could be.

  62. In a comparable move, several states are trying “Scarlet Letter” license plates for DUI offenders (Ohio, Iowa, Minnesota and Oregon according to this article.

    Does this shame drunks into driving sober, or at least warning other drivers to watch out? Hopefully we’ll have some statistics soon.

  63. Seems like it might make more of a difference if there was a large sign on the car stating the reason it is in her front yard.

  64. Why not put it in her back yard, so she’s the only one that has to look at it? If it bothers the neighbors that much, perhaps they can petition the judge to do so. Although having it in her front yard will remind others of the dangers of driving intoxicated, also.

    I remember when Fort Lewis military base in Tacoma, WA used to have a DUI wreck at the main gate (a new one quite often) as a reminder.

  65. If the American people are really upset by drinking and driving, and REALLY want to do something about it, then they could push to make breathalyzers with ignition interlocks standard in ALL cars. Anyone with a BAC of more than 0.08 would not be able to start their car. Arizona and Illinois have already done this for convicted drunk drivers, but it’s only a start.

    If they were mandatory on all cars it would solve the problem of people “borrowing” cars when their own have been impounded — or wrecked. It would also stop those people who have driven drunk but never been caught (like my idiot uncles).

    The government could pay to retrofit them on existing cars. There’s certainly enough wasteful government spending going on that could be diverted into something that would save almost 20,000 lives each year (MADD’s site, http://maddtx.org/stats/1298). It would put money into the economy, create jobs (people have to install them), and make the roads safer all at once.

    We require people to have a license to “prove” they’re fit to drive; breathalyzers would be no different. Getting these interlocks on all cars would be like getting standardized vaccinations. Not only do you not get sick and hurt yourself, but you don’t give it to anyone else and you won’t get it from anyone else, either.

    I already know that this will never happen, though. Most people really couldn’t care less about drunk drivers unless they’ve been affected by one. They don’t want to have to lift a finger to do anything more than what they feel they must, and they certainly wouldn’t want to pay any extra registration tax to cover the nationwide retrofit.

    I would love to be proven wrong, though.

    The majority does not deserve to be treated like childish criminals just because the minority are being just that. If you find a way to only punish the guilty, I’ll be all for it. -rc

  66. Mandatory breathalizers in all cars? Have you no pity for the valets who shuttle cars at italian restaurants. Its bad enough when aquaintences share their latest spicy meal via exhaling while speaking. Imagine the valet blowing breathalizers all day just to start the car for the customer who probably had a few drinks with his Linguini.


  67. I personally don’t think the car in front of the house is all that serious of a sentence and I don’t think that someone who’s deliberately driven impaired is going to keep that sobriety pledge. The driver of the car will get over being embarrassed and the neighbors will learn to live with it. Unless someone splashes blood all over it or something.

    My youngest brother and his best friend John went out riding the day after Christmas one year and a man with many drunk driving arrests hit John and dragged him almost 500 feet. The drunk was so sozzled he couldn’t even pull off a hit and run and finally stopped. My brother watched his best friend die and then had to relive it for the trial. That same drunk moron went on driving drunk and causing accidents. We know this because another classmate went on to become a police officer and pulled him over several times. Always extremely drunk.

    I’ve seen people who died in any number of violent ways and plenty of people who died as a result of someone driving drunk. Drunks kill and maim people much, much worse than just about any other way to die. And the terrible irony is that drunks seem to survive wrecks in much better shape than others do. I’ve heard them in the emergency room sobbing and moaning about how sorry they are while the dying and dead wind up in the morgue down the hall. I seriously doubt very many of them learn the lesson. People who drive impaired are selfishly oblivious because they choose to drink to impairment and choose to drive anyway. Addicts are immoral and all they care about is their next drink or fix.

    Randy, some years back you recommended a book called “Drunks, Drugs & Debits” by Doug Thorburn. Because you recommended it, I bought it and read it in one sitting. It was that good. It’s a useful book for those who are not drug or alcohol addicted because it helps folks to recognize the signs that someone has a problem. Substance abuse is often very skillfully hidden unless you recognize the signs and take steps protect yourself. Thorburn makes a great point that addicts burn through relationships and ruin the innocent unsuspecting then go on to another victim. All the love in the world won’t save someone from destroying you.

    I highly recommend the book to everyone who’s reading this blog. Everyone, no matter how strongly you feel either way about what’s happened to this woman. You can’t help someone who won’t be helped so learn how to spot the signs and recognize the people in your life who may be personal or professional poison.

    Basically the drunk or the addict has to hit bottom before he or she will decide to get sober and deal with the problem. Unfortunately hitting bottom is so vastly different for individuals that I can’t imagine how the powers that be can come up with an effective one size fits all system of deterrence and punishment.

    But what is a meaningful deterrent for driving drunk or impaired? Okay, what is a meaningful deterrent that isn’t cruel and unusual punishment?

    Something awful enough to scare them straight. Or maybe something to keep them from driving like putting immobilizing casts on both arms for a couple of years. Wear clothing identifying the person as a drunk, scarlet letter treatment. Don’t live the house without their clothing designating them as a drunk or addict. Maybe the wanted poster thing like they do in the post office and circulate the guy’s picture in every establishment in the state indicating it’s illegal to sell or provide any kind of alcoholic beverage to him or her. Remember it takes a village?

    Then again one of my neighbors was an Army cop who handcuffed drunks, disorderlies and the occasional streaker to the flagpole at the Main gate from o’dark thirty until after everyone drove on base in the morning. Jesse’s recidivism rate was zero.

    Again, I strongly recommend everyone to get the book “Drunks, Drugs & Debits” by Doug Thorburn and read it. It could be a very cheap way to save yourself money and heartache.

    You can get the book here. -rc

  68. The one thing that is being forgotten in this situation is that not only do you have to blow into the apparatus in order to start the car it will start beeping and honking at different intervals during your drive so you have to blow into it several times. My husband has one in his car due to 2 DUI’s and I can’t drive the car because I can’t get enough breath at one time to get me to my destination. I agree in theory, but in practice it just isn’t the answer.

  69. Instead of the wrecked car that punishes the neighbors too, force her to pay for a billboard with her picture on it for 2 yrs and say something about drinking and driving. More people would see it.

  70. My DUI experience involves being nearly hit by a drunk in the middle of a four car accident. After hitting three cars he drove off. My cell phone was in the trunk (remember bag phones?), so I had a quick choice of what to do either stay and help sort out the accident or follow. I was so annoyed at the attempted hit and run that I followed him.

    After three miles at 70-80 mph, his car driving on the remains of his left front tire and leaking coolant, he pulled into an apartment complex and abandoned his car. I was then able to call in the police. They were there within 3 minutes and were able to impound it while it was still cooling. The police towed his car back to the accident scene where the people he hit had no idea that it was the car that had hit them. Bottom line was that two of the three cars that he hit were totaled. People from two of them were hospitalized. One person lost a job because she was unable to get back and forth to work without her car.

    The drunk was arrested early the next morning after the policed traced his car to him. He was still over the legal limit several hours later when he was caught. If I had not chased him he probably would have gotten away with it as he had a good idea how to hide the car. That fact leads me to think that this was not his first time at attempting to evade police.

    When I went to court to testify in the case, he was convicted and sentenced to 6 months of house arrest and an additional 14 years on the revoked list. It turned out that this was his fourth DUI conviction, his third uninsured conviction and his third driving an unregistered/un-inspected vehicle conviction. His family had allowed him to continue to drive, unlicensed, uninsured, un-inspected/unregistered and drunk! If they had the wrecked car(s) parked in the yard as a reminder perhaps they would have prevented him from adding to the collection!

    As far as parking the car in the yard and legal issues, the judge probably has a pretty good idea what is legal and either was legal or decided that the relatively minor issue of code enforcement (that may appear in his court anyway) was outweighed by a novel attempt at a creative punishment. As far as I know, the rules where I live do not say that parked vehicles be operable, they do say they must be “licensed”. That also means insured, as in my state any licensed vehicle must be insured. That means that the expense will include registration fees, insurance and keeping up the payments. If the car is totaled, the owner must buy it back from the insurance company or else the policy will not pay off the loss, as the insurance company owns the salvage rights. The value of the remains will also drop over the 3 year probation period. All in all, a very creative way of raising the cost of being convicted of DUI.

  71. The judge in the story has handed out a punishment that is quit humorous. It reminds me of a time I was in court and the judge’s decision included the defendant be required to submit two of his vehicle wheels into custody thru the duration of his probation. I cannot say if I agree or disagree with the ruling, not for me to say. If it works, good, if not what is lost?

    The jail / prison system is far beyond broke. We as a culture have PC’d everything. The legal system has moved to the point that it is possible for persons to have multiple attempts to do their crime right (the perfect robbery, multiple vehicle catastrophe,etc..). What I am saying is the system is not set up to be so hard and so painful that a person is deterred from a life of crime. If this sentence helps this woman to stop drinking and get her life right, great, it has the potential to do more than the jail system does.

    I also would ask this, how many of the readers have ever struggled with an addiction? Have you got the victory (clean & sober)? Did you discover that life is hard when you are not receiving the comfort of your addiction? Why am I asking? I feel from the tone of the response some are giving, they don’t understand how someone could drive drunk for the third time, or for that matter how one could fall off the wagon. Honestly it is quite easy to slip back into your old life. I found it to be the case when I was intoxicated (insert substance). I no longer thought about the consequence of my actions.

    My belief is the law should ere on the side of harsh when it comes to DUI incidents. If you drink anything don’t drive, not .08 but .000. If you are caught DUI no driving for 10 years or more in addition to fines. As it stands now a person can be behind the wheel of a vehicle in 6 months or so. Where is the deterrent, what is keeping these people from 2nd, 3rd, etc. offense. Until the judge has new law to enforce he can only operate with the laws at hand.

  72. Denise has a good suggestion, and thanks to Ed for pointing out how this might be inconvenient for those of us wealthy enough to frequent resturants that offer valets services.

    I still believe in the no-harm no-foul approach because I honestly know folks who are not impaired at all at the “Legal” limit or slightly over, as well as folks who can’t drive or walk at a level less than the Legal limit.

    But if we do decide to push ahead and take action against someone who has actually done something wrong (had an accident) then we have to decide if we want to punish or rehalibilitate. This is kind of like to we have mandatory driving school or do we use the waterboard?

    Denise has a good suggestion, and thanks to Ed for pointing out how this might be inconvenient for those of us wealthy enough to frequent resturants that offer valets services.

    I still believe in the no-harm no-foul approach because I honestly know folks who are not impaired at all at the “Legal” limit or slightly over, as well as folks who can’t drive or walk at a level less than the Legal limit.

    But if we do decide to punish as opposed to rehalibilitate then this may be helpful. We will have effectively chosen torture over education. This is like picking waterboarding over driving school. I believe folks are more likely to modify their behaviour after spending 20 to 40 hours in an educational proogram than they are because someone “tortured” them, but then I also believe we should not torture somenoe or even accuse them of a crime, until after they have committed it.

    Send the car to the body shop. Send people to prison when they get into a serious accident due to drinking and to driving school when they have a minor accident, and leave them alone if no harm has been done.

    I decided to leave your comment exactly as written. Even without the horrible mistakes and repetition, it sounds like you’re drunk now. Interesting if so, or even if you “simply” have damage from previous substance abuse, considering you’re writing from work — at a U.S. government facility. I can’t imagine what you’re like behind the wheel, when you figure you’re “not impaired” whether above the legal limit or not. -rc

  73. I’m sorry, but the idea of only punishing a drunk driver when they have caused a serious accident is ridiculous. They are putting everyone at risk by their actions. Even the term ‘accident’ seems wrong in this case. Accident implies that something was unavoidable. Driving drunk and hitting someone should be considered a crime, not an accident.

    So what sort of person might make such a suggestion? Perhaps… one who habitually drives drunk, and thinks it’s fine because they haven’t gotten into an accident yet? Bingo. -rc

  74. There are some comments here on not punishing drunks unless there is an accident. That has a number of issues.

    1. Some people have a higher tolerance than others. One person may be impaired at .05 where a different person may have good reflexes and judgement at .10 or higher. The problem here is the level of impairment not matching the legal limit in a particular state for a particular person. I can understand taking into account the harm done, but driving impaired should be punished regardless of the specific level.

    2. Repetitive DUI’s should be treated harsher than a single incident, and usually are. One significant problem is that with jail space at a premium, judges may be reluctant to punish those who need harsh punishment as firmly as they would like as the jails are overcrowded already. Repetitive DUI’s involving accidents should be treated seriously regardless of injury.

    3. Allowing a person to drive drunk, or providing a car to someone on the revoked list, is as bad as doing it yourself. That may be part of the message that the judge was trying to send in the original judgement. Parking the wrecked car in front of the house is a reminder to the persons spouse, SO, parent or child to not let that person loose in a car.

    Randy, your comments about the other poster and impairment sounds a bit closed minded. He makes a valid point about impairment that was not acknowledged in your comments. I’m personally going to be harsher on someone who shows impairment through either an accident or an assessment of impairment than someone who “just” tests over the limit. Note that this opens up a whole additional area of impairment as a person may be physically impaired by some substance that is not tested for as well as impaired at a lower level than .08.

    Just to clarify, my policy is more than one beer since my last meal means that I’m not driving for the duration. While I may be legal with two or three beers, I know that I am not in my definition of a reasonable condition to drive.

    Don’t make the mistake that it’s my job to acknowledge every point made here, whether good or bad. Sometimes I comment, but usually I don’t. I can’t possibly do so and keep up with my work. -rc

  75. I don’t understand people who make excuses for drunkards and drunkenness. Down with psychiatrists, professional and amateurs alike!

    Bring back public flogging and the stocks! I’m sure they’ll work wonders compared with the achievements of do-gooders and the like.

  76. Driving while impaired by anything should be punishable. I’ve seen accidents caused by drunk drivers, cell phone impaired drivers, sleep deprived drivers. Unsafe and bad driving is not funny, nor does it deserve a slap on the wrist. Yes there are different levels of impairment for drinking, but who is to judge that one person’s ability while tipsy or drunk? Certainly not the drinker themselves. You may never know how it really affects you until you cause an accident. In an accident every split second matters. Every drink impairs you just a little. What if that millisecond from that one beer you had, could have spared a collision? It’s simple, don’t drink if you know you’re driving and don’t drive if you know you’re going to drink. Better to err on the side of caution than to dance on the border of dangerous.

  77. I’m glad this lady has to live with what she did for 3 years, though I think it should be for a life time.

    Any and all drunk drivers are the scum of the earth in my eyes and deserve no respect nor compassion
    My family knows first hand what a drunk driver can do. My aunt was killed in 1983 by a drunk driver. She was a police officer who had just gotten off duty and was driving home to her two young kids. She had turned her car around to help a stranded motorist when a drunk driver plowed into her car and sent it over the edge of the mountain. Unfortunately for my aunt she didn’t die a quick painless death, she suffered before they found her.

    That was almost 25 years ago and our family has never been the same, I have never once heard my father talk about his sister and in fact I only learned what happened to my aunt 4 years ago. Her children are grown now but they had to grow up without their mother and it has deeply affected both of them.

    If you drink and drive you deserve to get the book thrown at you, you aren’t just endangering yourself but every person out on the road with you.

  78. Personally, I love it!

    While I do not necessarily agree with those who say the first DUI should *automatically* result in the car being seized, license permanently revoked, etc. (anybody can make a mistake ONCE – not all DUI offenders are necessarily alcoholics/drunks or bad people any more than all speeders are street racers or getaway drivers), I do believe that punishments for subsequent (or exceptionally flagrant first) offenses should be harsh and public.

    I used to work for a towing company, and have seen first hand the results of DUI — both with and without an accident. I personally made a point of parking every DUI impound as close as possible to the most trashed car in the lot, and explaining to the person picking up the impound that the wrecked car was the DUI I brought in right after theirs. Believe me, I could tell by some of their faces they actually hadn’t thought of that.

    I also tried to get the company to allow me to put a sign on the back of every DUI impound as it was being towed in: “This vehicle is being impounded for DUI.” My thought was that when these signs started to been seen all over town, even some people who thought “I’ll never get in a wreck driving drunk…” might start to add “…but if I get pulled over…” Unfortunately, the company was too worried about being sued for defamation, etc.

    I also really love the idea of the “scarlet” license plates, or even a sticker on the plate or window. Even if the general population doesn’t know what it means, the law could include a provision giving the police automatic probable cause for a traffic stop on cars with DUI plates/stickers. The stickers could even be made in different colors/patterns to allow police to quickly identify repeat offenders. Imagine living the next three years knowing that you could be pulled over at any time for no apparent reason — would you drink and drive? Obviously, some still will, but to some it could be that little extra nudge toward caution.

    I like your sign idea. Too bad that the (legitimate!) fear of lawsuits squelched it. -rc

  79. In UK too we make a big deal about road deaths. Fact is that most are caused by new drivers, under-25’s mostly male and mostly with alcohol involved and most victims were passengers in those driver’s cars. So the rational law would be zero alcohol limit for under 25s and new drivers and under 25s limited to taking one passenger. Instead we see a driver being prosecuted for eating a banana while driving on the grounds that her attention may not have been fully on the action of driving and was therefore a potential hazard.

    UK road deaths are about 3000 a year (low compared with many other countries). Compare that with an annual death toll of about 9000 for “hospital acquired infections” mostly MRSA and C.Diff – the result of poor hygiene standards in hospitals.

    This may seem off topic but the point is that central government COULD reduce that 9000 figure easily and dramatically but they would need to find the money whereas stricter laws applied to drivers represent a revenue raising opportunity from fines while at the same time attracting headlines for “government action to reduce road-death toll”.

    In other words, just like the US schools “zero tolerance” policies, what we are seeing is evidence of dysfunctional state bodies.

  80. As a recovered alcoholic (25 yrs and happily counting), I’ve often referred to a quote ascribed to Desi Arnaz Jr. Whether apocryphal or not, it’s been very useful to me, over the years:

    “The search for genetic and neurochemical factors in alcoholism, and the move to reclassify it as a disease rather than destructive behaviour, tend to lighten the burden of guilt for the alcoholic. But I would never have licked my problem with alcohol and drugs had I not ultimately accepted full responsibility for my attitudes and actions.” -Desi Arnaz Jr.

    Alas, in so many cases, the drunk is given unwarranted solace from his/her actions by those who are quick to make excuses of one sort or another for them.

    There’s another quote I’ve kept close to me over the past quarter century. At first glance, I took it as an over-trivialization of the problem, but I quickly changed my thinking and saw it as dramatic understatement:

    “Drinking causes cirrhosis of the liver. It causes divorce, murder, traffic accidents and probably forest fires. It also costs money and makes the dinner late.”

    Makes the dinner late. Oh, yes!

    I searched for, but did not find, that quote — either attributed to Desi Jr or anyone else. Let me know if you have a reference. -rc

  81. Putting the car in the front yard is an interesting penalty but it would have been better if there were also a small sign indicating why the junk car is in the front yard in what might be a nice subdivision.

  82. As the permanently-disabled victim of a drunk driver, who also killed my fiancee, I say that no ‘guilt-inducing’ tactic will work for these people, because they are incapable of feeling guilt. Plain and simple, drunk drivers just don’t care about anyone but themselves. They are inherently selfish anyway, or they never would have chosen their own pleasure and fun over the lives of everyone else on the road in the first place.

    The only guaranteed way to prevent repeat-offense drunk driving would be to execute the drunk at the side of the road as soon as he or she causes a crash, or fails a sobriety test. No fuss, no fanfare, and no questions asked. Otherwise, he or she will just do it again, and again, and again, like this story very clearly illustrates. These people are, collectively, a menace to society, and don’t deserve the air and space they take up.

    “But what about their poor families?” you ask. Well, what about them? Check up on the statistics sometime of drunk drivers who kill their own family members, usually children. Trust me, their families will be much safer, right along with the rest of us.

    Now go ahead and whine to me about “rehabilitation” and “twelve-step” programs, and tender-hearted mercy… But every day of my life, I will still be in pain. And I will still be able to close my eyes and watch the paramedics working fruitlessly on my fiancee as he dies at the side of the road. Sorry, my sympathy is all used up on REAL victims, and I have none left for those who choose to drive drunk.

  83. I’m not sure that having the car towed to her front yard will be a deterrent to this lady to never drink and drive again (after all, this was her third offense), but for sure it will be a constant reminder to her (for those three years) that she could have killed someone and she’s lucky that no one died. She’ll be luckier if the person injured escapes permanent disability.

    And I agree that a sign explaining why the car is there is necessary–it might be a deterrent to the kids in this subdivision to not even think about drinking and driving.

  84. Posting again after reading all the additional comments. I’m totally amazed at the comments that people assume the relative priority of Law and presume to suspend any that they personally feel deserve lower recognition. Have many of you never heard of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution? And several states also have such clauses in their own constitutions. It’s Article 3 in the Texas Constitution. Check your own state IF you’re more interested in the rule of law than mob opinion.

    Whether you feel that the neighbors’ rights are less significant because somebody somewhere was sometime injured somehow for some reason, then you claim to be Law & Order but subscribe to mob rule by personal opinion. Get enough of you together and you have a lynch mob.

    That the woman in the discussion has few neighbors does not negate the zoning ordinances of the community in which she lives, and complaints are not even necessary for Code Enforcement to overturn such a judge’s ruling.

    That some of you have personally experienced tragedy in this manner and insist the ‘neighbors be damned’, allow me to state that I have NOT personally experienced tragedy in this manner, so would my opinion that YOU be damned be just as valid?

    And lastly, insisting on a junked car, billboard, or neon lights proclaiming “A Drunk Driver Lives HERE!” works ONLY if the woman lives by herself. If she has a husband, or worse yet, children, they also get to carry her burden, shame, and taunts, as though they themselves were guilty. And if anyone says that’s just tough luck for being part of a family in such circumstances, then such a person really has NO concept of law or equal protection.

    People are amazing in that they quickly demand their own rights as a sacrament of the law, while just as quickly dismissing anyone else’s rights as an inconvenient loophole in the law.

    Randy is right. There are almost 250 million U.S. citizens and a prison population close to 2 million inmates. The reason for such a staggering number IS because part of the population includes drunk drivers who have been sentenced for vehicular manslaughter.

  85. I do not think that the car being there will deter anything at all. I do think that it is an eye sore at the least. If the guilty party could be deterred by reminders of her offenses, she would not be a 3 time LOSER!

    I also do not think DUI criminals should be sitting in our overcrowded prisons. I think they should be stripped of all ability to drive, and put in a work party doing community service for the duration of their probation.

    If they kill someone because of their intoxication, they should be subject to the same punishment as a murderer who indiscriminately fired a lethal weapon into a crowd. Driving drunk is no less a danger than the afore-mentioned murderer.

    Lets tow the stupid car away, and punish the perp, not the family and neighbors.

  86. I’m sure this will be a less than popular view, but in keeping with Randy’s lack of tolerance of zero tolerance I must comment on the drunk driving issue. Drunk Drivers should be off the road. There is nothing more to say about that, however, when we hear of these horrific accidents, the one constant seems to be that the people are really drunk, that is they are usually repeaters and reported as having 2 or 4 times the legal level of alcohol in their systems.

    The current legal level in most states is 0.08 for legal impairment. What this comes down to is a glass and a half of wine with dinner for most people. That’s just plain silly. Recently, a 0.05 level was proposed in Ireland (they ought to be ashamed) and if it catches hold there, it will be proposed here as well. If passed, it won’t be long before the blue-noses will be proposing a reestablishment of prohibition.

    As with so many other things, we’ve gone too far in an attempt to make our highways safer. I would maintain that it’s important to get the real drunks off our highways, but the guy who takes his wife to dinner should be able to enjoy a glass of wine if he so wishes without fearing some overzealous dipstict refugee from the local thumper brigade having him arrested on the way home.

    It’s time to bring a modicum of common sense to this debate. And by the way, I drink very little.

    Let’s get our facts straight, please. Even a mere 100-lb man needs more than two drinks to break .08%, not one and a half (see chart). A more typical 180-lb man would need four over a short period to break .08%. Anyone guzzling down four drinks in a short time needs to stay off the road. -rc

  87. Interesting counterpoint from Mike in Dallas who thinks we’re a law-flouting lynch mob. Then he states that “I have NOT personally experienced tragedy in this manner, so would my opinion that YOU (presumably the rest of us in this blog) be damned be just as valid?”

    Damned eh? Sounds like he’s blaming victims. So quick he is to defend the rights of the chemically impaired driver that it suggests he’s been in that particular position, perhaps on more than one occasion. And he thinks current laws and consequences are adequately detrimental as they are. Hmmm. Let’s look at this.

    Even if Mike has not been in the position of drunk driver himself, it strains credibility that he can read the comments of those who have experienced firsthand the devastation either as a victim, law enforcement or emergency medical care provider, and not be able to conclude that accidents caused by impaired driving are often deadly or catastrophic for those involved.

    Demanding our rights as a “sacrament of law” and (the rest of us in this blog) “quickly dismissing anyone else’s rights as an inconvenient loophole in the law” actually trivializes Mike’s own point of view. For all those protections Mike just referred to, there are many more statutes intended to protect citizenry from just the kinds of mayhem and destruction we’re discussing here. We’re not talking urban legends, we’re complaining about token legal consequences. And although punitive measures suggested here are sometimes extreme, I’m positive all the respondents intend the measures to be taken are done in accordance with statutes, criminal codes and applicable case law. We’re suggesting the laws and sentences be tightened enough to effectively deter the chemically impaired. Vigilantism is illegal and vigilantes are about 99.9% assured to be caught and punished. That’s a higher rate than than criminal behavior at large. And it’s higher than for drunk drivers pulling a hit and run.

    I find it also interesting that Mike holds out the undeserved stigma on the other family members. The stigma comes in a far second to the anguish of living with a drunk. Those who drink or use street drugs are far more prone to commit abuses in the home as well as force their families into enabling the alcoholic and addictive behavior. Living with a substance abuser is a toxic, degenerating experience that blights and cripples those in contact with it. And holding out the feelings of the undeserving is a diversionary tactic. They’re already suffering far more than the presence of a wrecked car in the driveway. Every drunk who appears before a judge uses his loving family as justification for leniency.

    What people are talking about in here is how to reduce the death, destruction and carnage created by those who deliberately flout the law by driving drunk or impaired. If the deterrences on the books were working sufficiently, we wouldn’t be discussing more effective consequences. For those who break the law by driving impaired.

  88. I am of very mixed emotions about this issue. Insisting the wrecked car remain in the alcoholic’s yard while she is on probation will most likely not change her future choices on drinking. My ex-husband is an alcoholic who continued to drive when he felt like it even after his license was taken away from him. While I was married to him, my auto insurance included a rider that if he was driving the vehicle, it was not insured. I did not give him a key to my car, but if he decided to simply take the key from my purse while I was sleeping (and at the time, I worked a night shift so was often asleep during the day) there would have been nothing I could do. Luckily for me, he never did that that I know of. But we have been divorced for over a decade and he’s still drinking.

    I was his third wife, and alcohol has cost him a relationship with his children from his first wife as well as with our children, and he still drinks. Efforts to induce shame and/or guilt in an alcoholic are just as likely to be ineffective as they are to be an excuse for the alcoholic to have another drink. The answer for me was to remove myself and my children from the marriage, but that didn’t stop him from being a potential danger to others whenever he got behind the wheel of his father’s truck to ‘help’ his dad out.

    I don’t know what to suggest as a solution, but I will be very surprised if the woman who has the car in her yard will quit drinking and driving as a result of all this. *sigh*

    They say a drunk has to hit “rock bottom” before realizing they need help. A crashed car in the front yard is certainly enough to make some people think they’re at “rock bottom,” while others can have wives and children leave and still not get there. It just depends on the person. -rc

  89. I feel this punishment is ridiculous if it ends with the car sitting there and a 6 month jail sentence. They should make it so she can never drive again. Sure she may do it illegally but she should have a permanent suspension on her license. All we hear is someone causing some horrific crash that had DUI after DUI. Take them off the road permanently if they can’t adhere to the laws of the road.

  90. I have read through the many comments in this blog, and failed to see what I believe the real problem is illustrated, so I will share my opinion.

    It seems to me, that this is the real issue involved: Being mentally impaired, unable to reason rationally at the time of a crime, overrides the perpetrators criminal behavior in the judicial eye.

    There are not currently two distinct classes of mentally impaired states, the first that just exists, the second brought on by behavior.

    Impairment type one: caused by a damaged, defective, or diseased brain (such as a psychopath or a schizophrenic). Hannibal Lector did not, could not, wake up today and decide NOT to be insane.

    Impairment type two: brought on by choosing to drink, snort, smoke, inhale etc some substance to induce a mental state change. Hannibal Sipper did wake up today and decide I want, need must have a drink (or two or ten).

    As long as the judicial system insists on treating these two cases as the same under the law, the whole DUI issue will never truly change. In my opinion there must be a distinction made because the substance impaired person was still capable of choosing a path that didn’t involve them driving when they were sober.

    Maybe the issue could be solved by treating substance abusers who get caught driving as criminally insane, and lock them up in an asylum for treatment; or simply by removing the protection offered by citing mental impairment as a mitigating circumstance.

    While I don’t think it will change her, I do enjoy the humor of her car sitting outside rotting in her yard while she sits inside rotting in her drink of choice.

  91. That eye-sore of a crashed car isn’t even facing towards the house. The whole street can see the damage, but not the convicted DUI from their house. It could of at least been parked the other way around so the rear of the car was displayed to the street.

    Where I live the local government would send letters to the owner of the house asking them to fix or remove the car from the property, with fines and or the forced removal of the car being consequences should the owner fail to adhere.

    In my humble opinion the judge disregarded the community with this decision. Another example of people who are stupid and pass off responsibility continue to annoy the people around them.

  92. The people contributing to the “no-harm, no-foul” discussion do not seem to have realized that one is likely to have an encounter with a police officer only (unless one runs into a random check) when an accident or other traffic violation occurs, or the officer suspects impairment.

    I’ve heard that sleepiness has effects on the body similar to drunkenness.

    My understanding is that the human body creates a small amount of alcohol, therefore a blood alcohol level of 0.00% is not possible. I’m not able to find a reference for this, though.

    The comments of Dave in Littleton CO is pretty much what I had in mind with my suggestion of charges of premeditated murder or attempted murder for repeat offenders — if you’re a first-time offender, your encounter with the criminal justice system is your notice to ensure that you don’t have another encounter, even if you need to get a lifetime supply of naltrexone, or get yourself declared unfit to care for yourself.

  93. As a recovering alcoholic myself of 30 plus years. My comment is pretty simple:

    The wrecked car in her driveway will not cause any amount of harm to her or her community compared to the harm she will do still drinking.

    Hope this is her “wake up call” for everyone’s sake.

  94. No judge, person, punishment, etc., can “make” a person decide to quit drinking and to seek recovery. Hitting a hard bottom can help. A nudge from the judge helps too, but it has to hurt and be hard, not like parking a car in the yard. That’s not painful enough. It does affect others and therefore is not fair. It should not be a part of probation. You don’t want to make things easy for the alcoholic, don’t enable them, but aside from that, it’s up to them want to quit.

  95. The driver of this vehicle should have to put a large sign on the car to the effect that it has been used as a lethal weapon.

  96. Barbara, if you intend to debate a topic, then it behooves you to remain on that topic. Nothing in this article, or forum discussing it, indicates that the defendant was deprived of rights. Or that her victims didn’t deserve consideration. Wearing their cause on my sleeve does not add any validity to their already valid claims.

    But if you do believe that the application of law is horrendously insufficient, then you’re apparently another one of those who believe the Hollywood hype that the law is a nice thing, but ultimately helpless without the citizens taking it up in their own hands to assist it along. If judges are handing out ridiculously lenient sentences, then you need to vote for different judges come election time. Or, if your judges aren’t elected in your state, vote for different politicians who appoint the judges. Also, nearly every state has a Judicial Review Commission to submit complaints about judges straying from the law. The law is the application of Reason and Logic, not the collection of emotions and feel-good ideas to try something different just to see if it helps.

  97. Most judges don’t have the legal tools to keep drunks from driving. They can punish after the fact, but that does little about the next time. I don’t really understand why the law treats DUI as a minor infraction. If you injure someone with your car, drunk or not, it is assault. Third strike and you’re in! If you cannot control yourself, the law should protect the rest of us.
    Your right to swing your fists stops at the end of my nose. Your right to freedom stops when you take someone else’s freedom.

  98. I agree with many commenters that the laws and/or the application of those laws is often too lax. One year in prison for a first offense, three for a second, and 8 for a third seem quite reasonable to me. Fines are also okay, but I would want them scaled to the ability of the criminal to pay. Someone who earns $20,000 per year might be fined $2,000 for a first offense and $5,000 for a second; someone who only earns $10,000 per year might have to be fined smaller amounts.

    I also don’t like the idea of seizing criminals’ vehicles — this only encourages them to buy inexpensive used ones to drive when they’re drunk. They should not, however, be allowed to declare bankruptcy until they have sold any vehicles they own. Exceptions to license revocations that allow criminals to drive for work need to be tossed right out the window. If they need to drive for work, they need to get new jobs or go beg on the streets.

  99. “Most judges don’t have the legal tools to keep drunks from driving.”
    Posted by: Pete, NJ | March 21, 2008 3:15 PM

    Actually, they do. It’s called an ignition interlock device (IID). 100% effective…for that automobile. All DUI’s should be required to have one installed on their auto.

  100. I think that the visual aide will go a long way to keeping the topic in the forefront of hers and the neighbor’s minds. At Prom time, many high schools display cars that have been in drunk-driving accidents. I believe that the sight of them is more powerful than a thousand words.

    I have nephew has an ignition interlock device (IID) and I thank god that he does have it. Doesn’t stop him from drinking, but it does stop him from driving.

    I hope I’ve taught my son that a person can drink responsibly. I have also taught him that a car is a deadly weapon. A driver’s license is a license to operate a deadly weapon.


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