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Orange County Criminal Attorney

Guns vs. DUI

“Your client (charged with DUI) is more dangerous than a loaded gun”

This is what a local judge told me recently when I asked that he release my client without posting bail for his second offense of driving under the influence. It kind of caught me by surprise since the courts are full of DUI cases and the jails are too full to keep these highly functional individuals in their custody, choosing rather to release them back to (the public) their families, and jobs -- and usually on their own written promise to appear. This doesn't sound like the way we treat people that the community fear. Anyway, can a driver without a criminal record kill someone while driving DUI? On the first offense? YES! And do people get multiple DUI's and never hurt anyone? Yes, again!

So I started brainstorming, thinking of reasons why I disagree with the judge, and to do some research to provide the next judge that offers their opinion with my thoughtful retort. Incidentally, I have heard this from more than one judge lately, and how do some judges obtain that spectacular insight into the future when they comment, “your client is going to kill somebody.” I’ve looked all over for the crystal ball nearby and can’t seem to find it. I wish they would just punish the people for what they did and not what they’re going to do.

Operating A Motor Vehicle Is A Serious Responsibility 
We all have grown up with cars. Your first ride in the car probably was from the hospital when your mother brought you home. Since then, you have been either a passenger in a car or driving one nearly every day. We think nothing of picking up the keys, jumping in the car and driving off to the corner store or school or business several times a day. This premise is crucial to my argument, because my mom didn’t give me a gun on the way home but she bought me a car when I turned 18, my parents never even owned a gun. Incidentally, I’ve can’t remember a client that was going to the corner store or school or even work at 2 in the morning when the cops stopped them for a broken taillight and arrested them for DUI.

You see, we are so familiar with the car that we've almost developed "contempt" for the car. We would never handle a loaded gun as casually and carelessly as we handle the car, but both of them are dangerous. A key concession, the author agrees, both are dangerous, not one more than the other as my favorite judge would espouse. In fact, the car is even more dangerous than a gun because to kill someone with a gun requires intent, motive, planning, and a victim who has incurred your wrath. Are you kidding me!!! No, that’s wrong and deceptive. You can kill with a gun without intent. You can do it with negligence and childishness. You can kill with a gun with a little intent, yes, recklessness still doesn’t require planning or malice toward the victim. I even object to the word ‘victim,’ I prefer “the injured.” You can like the victim/injured and still kill him. To kill someone with a car requires none of these elements. Exactly, you can kill with a car negligently. You could kill an innocent pedestrian because you fell asleep at the wheel for a second. Most carnage on the road is the result of someone deciding to drink and drive. There better be some stats to back up that random assertion.

Do you get my point? Not yet. A car is equally, if not more, careful dangerous than a gun here it comes but our attitude toward driving, to say the least, is nothing but cavalier. OK I have to stop here, I disagree. Cavalier? No, I need to get to work and I need to drive because the state taught me how, my parents bought me my first car so I wouldn’t use theirs, and the State gives me a license to go ahead. We would never point or fire a gun at a group of people at an intersection, but we have seen people who do exactly that with their cars. Right, that happens all the time, people go out and aim or point their cars at people at intersections. I don’t point a gun at a crowd of people because I don’t have one, but the State wants all of us to drive. The folks I’ve seen on the news who plow into crowds with their cars are the elderly that mistake the accelerator with the brake. Or they’re having a seizure and aren’t in control of anything, that’s negligence again and they don’t have any intent to hurt anyone.

Here are some sobering statistics notice there’s no legitimate references for these “stats”:

In the past decade, four times as many Americans died in drunk driving crashes as were killed in the entire Vietnam war. Well a lot less people went to Vietnam and served at the front where the fighting occurred. Plus our men were fighting back, which resulted in less casualties for Americans!

Traffic crashes are the greatest single cause of death for every age from six through twenty-eight. Almost half of those crashes are alcohol-related. Aha, less than half! There are other reasons for those deaths. I would presume that all of the gun-related deaths in the same age group were equally avoidable.

It is estimated that 2.2 million drunk driving crashes each year victimize 1.3 million innocent people who are injured or have their vehicles damaged. That it, I’ll just tell the next judge that I estimate that my client will not victimize anyone if he is allowed to go free. There we go again with the “victims.” The people were injured not selected to be turned into victims. What drunk driver meant to kill someone?

In 1990, one in 100 drivers had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.10 or greater. About 21 billion miles were driven drunk. Did they do a survey on a Tuesday by asking everyone on the road what their BAC was? I say the 21 billion miles is really a lot of miles for that one guy with a BAC over .10. I think he would have sobered after about 300 miles.

 In 1994, there were 11,207 fatally injured drivers in single vehicle crashes. About 46.2% were intoxicated. Notice less than half, there is something accounting for 53.8% of the crashes. I also think that the public would not feel so bad for the drivers hurting themselves when the drive under the influence. How many guns were turned on their owners?

There is a silver lining on the horizon. Extensive driver education and stiffer penalties have resulted in a slight decline in alcohol-related traffic crashes. The number of drivers involved in collisions who had been drinking decreased by 6.2%, from 13,395 in 1993 to 12,565 in 1994.

I hated the real statistical applications I was taught in college, but isn’t there some mixing of stats here. I guess I have to search further, because I don’t know what a 6.2% decrease is telling us. It’s possible that the people that were “involved” in collisions weren’t killed or even injured. Maybe cars are safer and offered more protection, or maybe the hospitals that received these patients didn’t detect alcohol consumption because they were too busy trying to treat the more seriously injured gunshot wound victims.

The DMV offers these helpful tips at:

1. Abstinence - you retain control of your vehicle and your life
2. Use public transportation or a taxi
3. Appoint a designated driver
4. Stay where you are.
5. Plan ahead, drink responsibly at home. Have friends come to your home and invite them to stay overnight if they over-indulge

You have to scroll down for a few minutes before you get to it—maybe indicating the importance that the DMV places on the subject. The DMV has much to lose in prosecuting suspensions that flow automatically from individuals providing a sample of their blood or breathe because they impliedly agreed to be tested when they received their license. Without implied consent, those hearing officers at the driver safety office would have to go and get real jobs, like at a local field office.

So in conclusion, I think the stats are misleading because so many people drive compared to those that own guns, and I think we’d have to exclude the rifle owners, because how many people die by way of shotgun or a deer rifle? I don’t know, I don’t have the burden of proof, I’m a defense lawyer. Cars are everywhere, and everyone owns one. In addition, they are much larger than bullets and we drive them within feet of each other at high speeds. If you hit someone with one, there’s going to be damage and maybe someone’s going to die. What I never hear is that the injured or decease people were supposed to suffer that injury. Darwin would say they didn’t get out of the way fast enough and were naturally selected. Christians say that God works in mysterious ways and all things work together for those who love Him and called according to his purpose. The Bible says there’s a time to die and time to be born.

I have had several clients who hurt somebody after drinking. Two come to mind. One young man tested at .08 after he changed lanes into a speeding vehicle and both cars sped out of control. The other driver was ejected and died at the scene. My client held him and watched him die. I don’t think the alcohol had anything to do with it.

Another unfortunate young lady was urged to drive home by her male companion, they had both been drinking. As the passenger, he prodded her to “test” the power of the rented hot rod she wasn’t used to driving. She spun out of control and hit three pedestrians who had just been dropped off by an irate cab driver for their drunken belligerence. Alcohol had everything to do with that incident, since all involved were intoxicated. I know she would never dream of hurting anyone before or ever.

I guess I’m saying that I don’t see my clients on an equal plain as say the kids with the guns at Columbine, or the gang member that’s retaliating with a gun. No one ever concealed a car while they loaded it and aimed it at unsuspecting individuals. I’ve never heard of anyone that meant to get in a car drunk and fail to make it home safely. DUI is a crime of the successful, employed, licensed, educated, and temporarily impaired. The police have task forces out in every city looking primarily for the slightest of traffic infractions to justify the stop of every driver out after dark. The wide net catches all the little fish too. They stop and arrest those that have jobs and families to go to, are often already close to home or just leaving the bar, and haven’t hurt anyone. The determination is made officially after these people are “asked” to step out of their comfy cars into the cold of the night to perform some circus maneuvers on the pavement as if driving requires a gymnast’s agility. If I recall, I don’t need to worry about onset of horizontal nystagmus at 45 degrees because I just turn my head when I want to look to the side. And I just sit upright when I’m driving, I don’t hold one leg up and count to one thousand thirty or walk an imaginary straight line heel toe for no more or less than nine step and turn around just so and come back without using my arms for balance.

The DUI stats are misleading because its so easy to get caught and the various entities keep the stats to support their high budgets for personnel that engage in enforcing DUI laws. Besides, the laws favor the police on the street over the unsuspecting driver every time. Try to negotiate with a cop at night after hours, I have news for you, the tow truck has probably already been dispatched to tow your car. If you admit to drinking something, you’re getting arrested, and if you deny it, then you’re lying to the cop, and that’s also a misdemeanor.

  Copyright © 2005 Daniel C. Grupenhagen. Web Directory