Guest Commentary

Want to stop DUIs? It's about prevention, people

Considering the responses my piece ("119 Days," Aug. 12) received in the Mailbag a couple weeks ago, I wonder if our society has reverted back to the infectious mob mentality of burning women after being found guilty of "crimes" that were inapplicable to some unrelated incident.

However, considering I am a guy with three DUIs, this wasn't my first jab from ostracism.

I was fired from an Arizona Daily Star internship by a former assistant managing editor, even though my DUI arrests occurred six months prior to my hiring. He also said I'd never work for the newspaper again, even though I'd followed their policy on the issue to a "T." After writing a column letting Summer Wildcat readers know I would be serving time in jail and wouldn't be editing any DUI-related stories, one of the paper's alumni--a Tucson Citizen-turned-Arizona Republic reporter whom I admired--damned the Arizona Student Media Board for hiring me. Sigh (places back of hand over eyebrow). It gets worse.

Because of my state sentence, I can't vote in this year's elections; my license has been revoked; and I have a probation officer who searches my house at least once a month for contraband.

Boo fuckin' hoo on that one, right?

Exactly! I put the community in harm's way, and without a doubt should be serving my debt to society.

However, choosing to chronicle my experience on a controversial issue that I have to live with every day, in hopes of helping our community come to a better understanding, shouldn't warrant statements about whether I'm still drinking, my father has money, or if I'm homophobic and in the closet. I wrote that piece as a warning to all potential DUI offenders that one of the worst consequences they'll face is the loss of rights as a citizen in the free world.

What does that mean? Going to jail sucks, period, and it is a reality for people who get caught drinking or using while driving nowadays.

Hell, cops, inmates, even my attorney (who was unbelievably cheaper than most, thank you very much) described Pima County Jail as a country club compared to others in the state, let alone where I wanted to live prior to my conviction, Detroit. (Keep your mouth shut; it's my hometown.)

But that doesn't mean that someone like a housewife, doctor, businessman or college graduate who underwent a 180-degree life change when getting the sentence he received isn't going to face one of the worst experiences in his or her life.

We're a society bound by the automobile. Unlike countries like Germany--where first-time offenders could lose their license for years and face hefty prison terms, but have cities with some of the most advanced transit systems in the world--I can count the number of U.S. cities on one hand that run a transit system that can efficiently get drinkers from bar to home or bar to party.

No matter how stiff the punishment, we will still face the injury, loss and frustration of driving under the influence. As long as alcohol and drugs are around, and social gatherings are legal, some people will get behind the wheel drunk, high or stoned.

The most valuable, effective and cheapest tool to stop DUI is prevention--which is what that article was all about. After all, people wouldn't get hurt or killed if they or others didn't drive in the first place.

Ah, you naysayers to any comment from the defendant, aren't we forgetting the true purpose of the jail and prison terms, probations and fines? Let's say it together now: to correct the behavior considered wrong by the court!

Phew! I just checked the Arizona State Bar Web site--none of the people who wrote in a couple weeks ago have any affiliation with the court room. God forbid they have any say in the sentences meted out in our state.

With as much fervor as they have for throwing someone away and tossing the key, I wonder what they have forgotten and padlocked in their closet.