One Criminal's Chronicle

You really don't want this to happen to you!

Lost our License!

(Thanks Power Computing for giving me a perfect image to go along with what's happening to me. I loved your Mac's; I loved your marketing; I wish you the best. Wish me the best, too. Please!) [In case anyone's wondering, this really isn't a picture of me. In fact, I can barely remember being that young. But what I do remember was sure fun!]
On Sunday, August 25, 1997, I got arrested in Campbell, California on a charge of Driving Under the Influence - a DUI. It's certainly changed my plans! I'm sharing the mess in the hope that someone else changes their behavior before they get what I got.

Synopsis

What follows is one loooooonnnnngggg page that chronicles my experiences, written as they happened. For those who don't want to read it all, here's the highlights (low-lights?).

First, the mea culpa:

I was driving under the influence. It isn't something I normally do, but it happened. If you've ever driven home from a bar, or driven home from a party, or driven someone else home after you've had a few, this could happen to you. The limit in California is 0.08%: 3 drinks/beers/wines will probably put you over. So pay attention!

What I got. You can, too.

  • One night in Jail
  • Fines and fees totaling $1870
  • Two days of manual labor in the custody of the department of corrections
  • Four days of labor in the custody of the Sheriff's Office
  • One and a half days of lost work due to court-related matters
  • Thirty days without any driving privileges
  • Physical loss of driver's license, resulting in no identification
  • Five months of restricted driving privileges (work related only)
  • Legal alcohol limit for next three years is zero. That is, driving after drinking even one beer is considered a second DUI. Also, being a passenger in the front seat of a car with a driver who is over the limit is considered a second DUI for me. You can also get a DUI on a bicycle. You can also get messed up just walking, as that is Drunk in Public, which is a probation violation.
  • Auto insurance rates tripled.
  • Fifteen weeks of alcohol education classes.
  • For three years, provide state with certification of auto insurance (SR-22)


My story follows below. You should probably read some of it; after all, I had to live every day of it. But if you want, yo can skip to the conclusions.

There are also some links to other DUI pages I've found informative.


Preface
I really do like my house. It's centrally located in Silicon Valley; it's reasonably private; and the back yard is a really nice water garden, thanks to the efforts of my house-mate who has a major green thumb. There's a koi pond, a waterfall and stream, palm trees, halyconias, dahlias, and other cool plants. It's a really nice place to hang out. Great dogs too.

In August of 1997, several friends from out-of-town were scheduled to be in the area, arriving on Saturday and Sunday. I thought it would be really nice to invite them over on Sunday afternoon, so we could have a meal and some drinks and generally have a good time.

Somehow, things didn't turn out exactly as I had them planned.

Life, some say, is what happens while you're busy making plans. Almost no-one plans on getting arrested. As near as I can determine, not one single person in jail that night had started out the day planning on being there. So much for making plans.

Let's have a party!
Sunday Afternoon
Mark and Jeremy had flown in the night before. They were staying in hotel about 1 mile from my house, in Campbell, CA. I had made a commitment earlier to Mark to have him come over on Sunday afternoon. I called around noon, and Mark told me Jeremy was there too, and could they both come. Of course I said yes, and I drove over to the hotel and brought them back to my house.

We had beer and wine and sat out on the deck talking. Later in the afternoon, David arrived at the same hotel. Rather than trying to give him directions, Jeremy and I drove back to the hotel, picked up David (and a bottle of single-malt scotch Jeremy had) and came back to the house.

We cooked food, had plenty to drink, and generally had a good time. Eventually, the stereo came on, and we were listening to music out on the deck.

Now, just so you don't think we're a bunch of low-lifes, I need to clarify that I'm the only real low-life. Everyone else in the group holds a Ph.D. in chemistry or biochemistry or something equally mysterious. These are well-respected professional folk, myself excepted of course.

Oops!
Sunday Night
Around 11PM, I drove Jeremy, Mark, and David back to their hotel, and then drove back to the house.

When I got back to the house, there were police everywhere. They had apparently shown up on a "noise complaint" and then called in reinforcements. There were at least 6 policemen around the house.

They fairly quickly grabbed me, gave me a field sobriety test, and hauled me off in handcuffs. I had been arrested on a 23152: Driving Under the Influence. I was driving under the influence; I clearly should not have been driving.

The cops took me down to the local jail where I was held until they could get someone to come in a take a blood sample. While I had initially agreed to this, I had second thoughts sitting in the holding cell, and was starting to protest. They informed me that I had two choices at that point: take the test or lose my license for a year. I decided to take the test. In retrospect, I'm not 100% sure if that was the best choice, but who can make choices when you're intoxicated? If I hadn't been intoxicated, I wouldn't have made the decision to drive in the first place.

Old AA Slogan: Will Power is Soluble in Alcohol

Eventually, the guy who takes blood samples showed up and drew blood. Then they transported me downtown to the Santa Clara county jail. I was fingerprinted and put in one of the holding cells in the basement of jail.

They had two holding cells in use, but there are at least 2 others available. The cells are cinder block with a steel door with a little window in it. The floor is some kind of rubbery stuff. There is a 3-foot divider wall toward the back with a toilet and sink behind it. The sink was all plugged up because some guy kept throwing up into it. There were about 8 of us in that cell. I was the only one who could only speak English. There was one guy who could only speak Spanish. The rest were bilingual. Mostly everyone was just asleep on the rubber floor. Every once in a while, the guards would come and get someone out for more processing or put someone new in.

There is a minimum holding time if you're drunk: 6 hours I think. So around 6am, I got processed out. They took my picture, fingerprinted me again, then gave me back my stuff, and some paper work and released me.

The Morning After...
Monday
It was 6AM Monday morning. I called a cab to get a ride home. Took a shower; went in to work. Felt very strange, as I'd had almost no sleep the night before. Didn't tell anyone what had happened.

When I got my billfold back, there was no driver's license there. I did have a pink paper that the cops give you when they take your license away. What happens is the police take your license away immediately. They give you this slip that has some descriptive info on it, and is valid as a license for 30 days - for me until 9/25/97. The 30 day period is so you can appeal the license confiscation, but there aren't many grounds. I suppose I could have appealed and extended the process, but I think the outcome was inevitable, so it didn't make any sense. I could continue to drive until 9/25/97 and then my driving privileges were gone. A court-ordered pedestrian, me.

My court date was set for 10/9/97, a Tuesday.

John Gets a Shiny New Bike
September
During the month of September, it was necessary for me to take a trip on an airplane. Airlines today require picture IDs, but I had no driver's license. I also couldn't find my passport anywhere. So I managed to get the airlines to let me onto the plane with just a Price Club card; it's the only thing I have left with my picture on it.

I also decided to buy a bicycle, knowing my driving privileges would be gone for a while. Fortunately, I live close enough to work that it is reasonable to get there on a bike. There's no worthwhile public transit in this valley, so I would have been screwed otherwise. I got a reasonably inexpensive Schwinn 21-speed and borrowed saddlebags from my house-mate so I could take stuff back and forth to work.

At work, I discovered there was a shower in the building, so I got a key for that. I started biking to work every day, taking a change of clothes and a few toiletries with me.

Biking to work has turned out to be extremely cool. I can make almost the entire trip along the Los Gatos creek trail, a paved trail along the edge of a year-around creek that has ponds and lots of wildlife on it. I really enjoy it, and wish I'd started doing it long ago. Of course, it won't be some much fun when it's raining outside, but so far, it isn't.

John Sees the Judge
October 9: I go to court.
On October 9, I went to court. I had decided not to get a lawyer. As near as I can figure out, everything is pretty much fixed. Unless you think there is something flawed in your arrest, there is not much a lawyer can do. I showed up and pleaded nolo contendere. They give you a paper that has your sentence defined in a bunch of check-boxes.

My penalties were:

  • Fines totaling $1250
  • Drinking Driver School: Once a week for 2 hours for 15 weeks. Costs $390.
  • Weekend Work: 3 weekends of work in lieu of jail. Trash on freeway, I assume.
  • Separately, the DMV suspends your license for at least 4 months, really six, more below.
  • Probation for 3 years. Probation means that for me the legal blood alcohol is 0.00%, not 0.08%. It also means I can be stopped and tested at any time. It also means I agree to "live a good life, and obey all the laws of the city, state, and nation." I think "obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent" are in there somewhere too.

But it's worse than that. It's not just the stuff; it's the BS that goes with it, only some of which I've discovered I'm sure.

  • The Weekend work requires "pre-booking". That means showing up at the jail on a particular day, defined in your sentence, to be photographed and fingerprinted. Never mind that they've already done this about six times by now. And you can't choose when. You just show up on the day they tell you. You wait about 45 minutes, and then 5 minutes getting booked. I went by cab, since I couldn't drive. Round trip: $45.

  • The Drinking Driver School requires starting with a "orientation session". This is 3 hours long, and only takes place in the middle of the day. I called them right after I got out of court and I lucked out; they were having one the same day I got my court hearing. Of course I'd only planned on taking a half-day off work for court; it ended up a full day because I went to the orientation session the same day. The Drinking Driver classes consist of the orientation class, 7 weeks of instructional classes and 7 weeks of group meetings. There's a whole bunch of complicated rules about absences. Thou shalt not show up with any alcohol in your blood, so they recommend no drinking for 24 hours prior to any class.

  • In addition to weekend work, my sentence had a box checked "PC1209 fee". That, I discovered, is a fee you pay in order to do weekend work. It must be paid 10 days prior to your work weekend. But the court papers don't say how much it is or how to pay. A string of phone calls to people who had no idea what I was talking about finally led me to someone who knew. It's a fee of $35 plus $10 per work day, and it has to be paid in person at the Department of Revenue. Can't mail it in. Can't show up in evenings. More time off work. I'm just thankful I read all the fine print, or I would have show up at weekend work without having dealt with it, since your total notice consists of a check box on your sentencing form.

15 Weeks of Classes
October 15
My First First Offender Program Class.

I show up at 6PM at this old school site in downtown Sunnyvale. The "buildings" are old portable classrooms. There are hinges running down the ceiling and down the walls, so the whole place kind of folds up. But it hasn't been folded up in a good many years.

The signs inside say "Welcome to Sewing Class".

This is adult education.

The scheduled instructor was out sick, so we had a substitute. She mostly talked about herself for two hours. Class starts at 6PM. If you get there after 6:05, you won't credited for attendance. Classes are over at 8PM. If you have any alcohol on your breath, you're out. If you miss a class, you have to reschedule and pay $20. There are 7 of these classes to get through; then you go into "group" for another 7 weeks.

October 22, 29
More first offender classes. Our instructor is Otilia. Otilia the hun.

Otilia has been sober for 10 years or so. The world is probably a safer place for that.

"No sleeping". We hear that a lot. Sleeping is cause for dismissal.

At the beginning of each session, Otilia takes role by calling your name. You come up to the teacher's desk at the front of the room and sign your name while Otilia sniffs your exhale. We all hold our breaths.

October 31
My license has now been gone for a month. Because I have enrolled in the Drinking Driver program, I am eligible to get a restricted license. If I get one that only allows me to drive to the Drinking Driver program, then I have a restricted license for 3 more months (total of 4). If I also want to drive to work, then the restriction lasts 5 more months (total of 6.) I think about it, but I can't see not being able to drive to work or meetings and stuff, so I take the drive to work option. My license will be restricted until March 1998.

The penalty for driving when on restriction is really severe: they take your car. It's just not even worth considering.

In order to get your restricted license, you also need an "SR-22", a filing from your insurance company with the state saying that you have insurance. This will be required for 3 years for me. Some insurance companies won't do them, and I had been told mine was one of them. However, they did in fact give me one, probably because I have been with them for a long long time and my last traffic violation was 20 years ago. If they had cancelled me instead, which was what I expected, I would have to have obtained insurance and the SR-22 through some other company. The SR-22 is filed electronically with DMV by my company.

I show up at DMV to get my restricted license. I had all my court papers etc, my pile of receipts and stuff from the Drunk Driving program. I waited 45 minutes in line and got to a clerk. She said "where's your DL-626?"

I said "Huh?"

She said the Drunk Driving program has to give me a DL-626 form. At this point, I've been through their 3 hour orientation and two 2-hour classes and no-one has ever told me about a DL-626 form. Fortunately DMV gives me a pass so I can get back to a clerk without having to stand in line again. Provided I get back the same day. So I called up my house-mate, had him drive to DMV, take me up to Mountain View, where the DUI program administrative offices are located, and got my DL-626 form. Then we drove back to Los Gatos, and I walked out with a temporary restricted license. One with my picture will come in the mail in 4-6 weeks.

I would have gotten a DL more quickly, but the Campbell police never bothered to send mine back to the DMV. That meant a completely new one has to be issued, which is why it will take up to six weeks. I suspect they've got mine on a bulletin board somewhere in the Campbell PD. I really do hate those guys.

November 8-10
Moving is on my mind. I go up to Beaverton, OR. It turns out we have an office up there, and I could work from there. I want to check out the area.

I have no driver's license, so renting a car isn't in the cards. I take a shuttle from PDX to Beaverton: $25. But to check out the area, I hire a cab. I spent $120 in cab fares on Saturday. Another $25 back to PDX to get home.

If you need to rent cars, don't get a DUI.

On the other hand, I decide Beaverton's an OK place. I think I could be a Beaver all right.

I'm a Guest of the Santa Clara County Sheriff
November 15-16
My first weekend as an "employee" of Santa Clara County. Show up at 8AM. If you are late, there are no makeups: you have to go back to court. I'm getting up at 6AM to make sure. No-one seems to know if you are allowed to drive to Jail to report for this. Technically, it doesn't seem so; I mean this really isn't "employment". On the other hand, everyone else seems to do it. Guess I'll give it a try.

Saturday
On Saturday morning, I show up at the parking garage across from the courthouse. It's raining heavily outside. It's also the first really cold day we've had this season. Inside there's lots of people milling around. There's one cop and several Dept. of Corrections officers (they run the jails). There are also about six people with Orange Vests on that say "inmate worker". They're helping out. Soon I'll have my own orange vest.

They take roll. This is much more complicated than in any other place I've been. We all line up into about 5 lines. Each person empties his pockets and submits to an inspection. That gets you to another line. After everyone has been through the first lines, they call you out in alphabetical order from the second line. From there you sign in and go to a third line.

Eventually they loaded us all on buses.

Officer Garcia said "Welcome to Weekend Work Program." You know what we're going to do today? Nothing. You're going to sit until 4 PM." They fired up the buses and took us to the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds. The unloaded us into the livestock barn. It was still raining like mad.

I'd never been in this place before. It looked like something out of the county's agricultural past, but way out of place today. About 300 animal pens, each surrounded by steel fencing. Two arena, surrounded by bleachers. We hang out in the bleachers, freezing. There's a roof to keep the rain out, but the walls are basically open. A good idea when you've got a barn full of animals. Not so nice when you've got a barn full of people and a cold wind blowing.

Around noon, the "roach truck" pulled up. A mobile deli that had hot coffee, tacos, burritos. Stuff that wasn't cold! Officer Garcia made us line up and let us go 3 at a time to get coffee. It was awful coffee, but it sure tasted good at that point.

We hung out until about 3. Officer Garcia took the long way back to the Jail to kill some time, and we checked out. They turned us loose at 4PM.

Sunday
Sunday is more of the same, but roll call goes a lot faster, because everyone knows the routine now.

I expect to get bussed out to the Fairgrounds again, but this time they took us to San Jose State University. There were 3 bus-loads: about 150 people.

They armed us with a few brooms and dustpans, about 3 gasoline-powered blowers, and hundreds of giant garbage bags.

First we went through a 4 story parking garage. Then we went to another 4-story parking garage. Then we walked through the campus. Then we went through another parking garage. By then we'd killed the whole day, given an hour out for lunch.

I begin to understand the meaning of "doing time". It isn't about doing anything: not cleaning or anything particularly constructive. It's just about killing the time from 8AM to 4PM, when they turn us loose. I realize that it's even worse for the DOC officers: they have to do this ALL the time; I only have a few weekends.

Next Two Weekends: The Sheriff's Shooting Range in the hills above Coyote, about 30 miles from my house. I can hardly wait...

November 22-23
I get up real early, as I'm not really sure how to get to the this place, and I'm terrified of being late and having to go back to court. They have given us maps that say how to get there from Highway 85, which is only a few blocks from my house. Unfortunately, you have to go South on 85. I've never gone south from my house, and quickly discover that I don't know where the on-ramps are. So it took me about 15 minutes just to get on the right freeway going the right direction. Glad I left early.

I follow the instructions, taking 85 south almost to the 101 junction, then off on Bernal road, over to Monterey Highway, south another mile or so to Metcalf Road, cross 101 and then up in the hills. I pass the Mariposa lodge: county Detox. Didn't know that place still existed. At the top of the hill is the Sheriff's Shooting Range. I actually end up arriving early and about 10 of us are lined up at a locked gate across the road. We hang, and eventually someone drives up and unlocks it. We go on up to the grounds.

This place is actually really cool, if it weren't for all the guns and stuff.

Welcome to Combat Town says the sign on the side of the building. It's decorated with paintings of guys in camouflage suits holding pistols stalking criminals. We all park near the building and assemble at some bleachers. There's about 50 of us.

Deputy Pierce introduces himself. He's dressed in military-looking fatigues and has a baseball cap on that says "Santa Clara County Sheriff" and has a little gun pinned into it. Deputy Pierce likes guns, I think.

Deputy Pierce takes roll and lays out the rules. He cautions us about obvious dangers: don't go peeking over the top of a berm when someone is firing on the other side - and non-obvious ones: there's rattlesnakes and wild boar out here. He wasn't kidding. Later that day we saw four wild boar charging up the hillside.

Deputy Pierce assigns us to various groups. Each group is led by someone with a lot of weekends. I only have two. Some guys have 42. I get assigned to a group building a bridge across a creek a few hundred yards away. The group leader is an experienced construction guy with a lot of weekends; so is his right hand man. Together, they've really built the bridge. Me and the rest of the newbies are charged with building a set of steps down to the bridge on one side and up from it on the other side. The steps are made from 30-inch sections of railroad ties.

The bridge, I learn, is called "Bridge over the creek Kwai". Rumor has it the construction crew will blow it up on the last day. The bridge goes across a narrow ravine with a creek in it separating a shooting pad from it's target area. The pad is called "Sniper Pad". On the other side of the creek are the man-sized targets, along with a few left-over pumpkins. Targets and pumpkins are pretty-well shot up.

We are a crew of six putting the steps into place. There's another crew somewhere cutting the ties to make the steps. They manage to produce about 8 or 10 steps each hour, which takes us about 10 minutes to put into place. Then we rest. This isn't really bad work. In fact, it's really cool up here. We're surrounded by scrub oak and grass-lands. There's hawks circling the hills. It's a beautiful day out here.

At the end of the day, we assemble back at the bleachers. Deputy Pierce takes roll again, and then we leave at around 4PM. Deputy Pierce talks to us for a while. Talks about his job (he's a reserve deputy) and about experiences he's had. This isn't nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be. Deputy Pierce is actually a really cool person, who happens to like guns a lot. I think the whole development up there probably owes a lot to him, as he runs us weekend workers. That gives him 50 laborers every weekend, and with that and some wood and a little paint you can do a lot. And he has.

The next day, Sunday, I know my way, so I leave a little later, and arrive just at 8AM. Roll call is done quickly, but it's raining out, so we all assemble in one of the many trailer/classrooms up there. Deputy Pierce turns on the TV and tells us to stay in that room or just outside it. No work if it's raining. There is nothing worse than just sitting, with nothing to do.

Eventually, it clears up, and Deputy Pierce decides to put us to work. Teams form, and I get one. My team is to pick up shell casings on pad 3 and paint some of the targets.

Pad 3 has a total of 12 shooting positions. They are lined up along the front, about 6 feet apart, and the targets are on the other side, about 50 yards away. There are bleachers behind the shooters and a two-story building overlooking the grounds. There's a bunker in back of the targets. The grounds have lighting for night use and speakers on poles for announcements. It reminds me of a small rodeo grounds.

My team scours the grounds for shell casings as well as shotgun shells and the wads from them. We are also supposed to paint the metal frames that hold the targets and a few other things. But before we can get the paint, some deputies decide to use the range,so they throw us off. We sit around until they are done and then go back to work.

We did a good job painting and picking up stuff. Tons of paper wadding from shotgun shells, and quite a few brass shell casings. Mostly 40 caliber. I found a whole bunch of .22 casings in one spot near the targets. We found a few live shells as well. 40 caliber hollow points. These guys shoot to kill.

Deputy Pierce lets us off a few minutes early today, as it's close to Thanksgiving. We all give thanks.

November 29-30
It's easier this weekend. I know where the place is; how long it takes to get there; what to expect. I show up on time easily. I get a crew and we start picking up shell casings from Pad 1. About 10AM the buses show up from downtown. Two bus-loads: 100 inmates. Newbies, I think. (I was there two weeks ago; I'm experienced now.) I get about 15 of the first-timers, and we finish cleaning up Pad 1 and then Pierce has us pick up trash on the side of the road. Four trips up and down the road has it pretty much sterilized. There's no trash in site. We kind of hang out of site until time for roll call at the end of day.

Saturday night it rained hard, and while it wasn't raining Sunday morning, it was overcast, windy, and really cold. We spent the morning policing the same road again, had lunch, and then... Oh No! Everyone has to sort shell casings. This is an experience I was hoping to miss, although it's nice being inside because it really is awfully cold outside. We sit inside at tables and sort out the empty casings that have been picked up from the pads. They're mostly .40 caliber, with quite a few 9mm as well. Next most common are .45's and then there are a few .38s and .375s. We sort out lots of them. There's about 10 tables of us, 4 to 6 at a table. My table, we decide, is the work-a-holic table. We can't not do it. We sort more than anyone else. Is this sick or what?

At the end of the day, I graduate.

I have completed my work weekends, as have about 3 others. Deputy Pierce congratulates us and hopes not to see us again in similar circumstances, or to have to pull us over. I can't agree more. I do think Deputy Pierce is a pretty neat guy though. He treated us well, and made us feel like we were doing something useful. It was not a dehumanizing experience, as some work details are, I believe. Think I may even drop him a note.

Things Begin to Look Up
December 1
Yesterday I graduated from weekend work; tonight I graduate from First Offender education classes. I've completed 8 weeks. Tonight we talk about use and abuse of alcohol; social vs heavy vs problem drinkers vs alcoholics. We take the "12 questions" test that's been around for years. If you answer yes to 3, you either "may be a problem drinker", "are a problem drinker", or "are probably an alcoholic", depending on who's giving the test. I get 11 out of 12, the high-scorer of the class. It doesn't say what that means. Probably that I'm the only honest one. Everyone else is arguing about semantics. I just drink too much.

Next week I start 7 weeks of group sessions.

Going to Group
December 8
I go to group. Group starts at 6:30 instead of 6:00, and it's in another room at the same building I was going to classes in. I walk in and there's about a dozen people there all seated around a big table. At around 6:32, in bursts our leader, Jeffery. He's a stocky black guy around 35 years old, I'd guess. Big grin. Passes around a sign-up sheet, and starts working through files. He has a file folder on everyone. Everyone is supposed to have two "face-to-face" meetings, one near the first group meeting and one at the end. Our fearless leader is having trouble getting people scheduled. A quick calculation shows he needs to do 4 people a night to stay even. He's not even. It takes about half an hour to get through the appointments: "You had your first one yet?" "No" "How long you been here?" "4 weeks" "Well you better come in early next week" And so on. Eventually he's got appointments scheduled for the next two weeks.

Mesa didn't show up for his face-to-face today. Mesa grins, shrugs, and says nothing.

The "homework" is to bring in newspaper articles that have something to do with drinking. They get read and then commented on. One guy has some, so he passes them around so everyone has something to read. We kill an hour or so.

Then it's time to "vote in" the new members, like me. Each new person tells their story - how they got here - and then the group votes them in. Seems silly, but it's kind of fun.

Mesa grins, shrugs, and says nothing.

December 15
There's a TV in the group room. It's Monday night, and the 49ers are playing Denver. The TV is on when I get there. Jeffery takes roll and then has someone turn on the TV "until we see what the score is". Then we get back to business. This happens a couple of more times during the night, so we saw some parts of the game.

Jeffery is a real character. Kind of a wise-ass, street-smart punk with a big heart and an irresistable grin. I'm getting to like him.

Next week is Christmas week, so we decide to have a potluck. Someone tries to sign up for marijuana brownies. Someone else tries for rum cake. Looks like it'll be KFC and pasta instead.

Mesa grins, shrugs, and says nothing.

Jeffery gets organized for "face-to-face" appointments for the next 2 weeks. I'm scheduled for my first one on 12/29 at 6PM.

Two people graduate tonight. Mesa is one.
We wish Cliff well.
We grin, shrug, and say nothing to Mesa.

Having Fun Without EtOH
December 22
Yes, officer obie: there is a Santa Claus.

Instead of sitting around commiserating and talking about how we're going to get through the holidays without getting arrested again, we have a potluck.

It really works!

I stop off at Boston Chicken and pick up a bunch of side orders. Someone brings piles of barbecued chicken wings. There's cakes for desert. It's all great.

Some might think this is not what we're supposed to be doing, but in fact it's really good. Most people that get DUI's are used to drinking in just about any kind of social occasion. By having a potluck, Jeffrey's made us have a social occasion without any alcohol, and everyone had a great time.

Face-to-face #1
December 29

My temporary driver's license - the one I got at the end of October - expires on 12/29, and I haven't received a new one. I call DMV, and they can't figure out what went wrong. They tell me to go back in and get another one. So I go down to DMV, stand in line. They give me yet another temporary license and have my picture taken again. Yuch! I didn't go in expecting to get photographed. I'm unshaven, in a sweat shirt, and my hair is sticking out all over. Oh, well. Anything for a picture driver's license.

At group, I have my first face-to-face with Jeffery. It's scheduled for 6PM, and I show up early. I'm on a mission to finish this whole damn program on time, so I definitely don't want to miss any scheduled activities. Gulia, scheduled for a 6:15 is here too.

Jeffery doesn't make it at 6. Or 6:15. He makes it for group at 6:30, and now he's got 6 people to have face-to-faces with, as he had two of us scheduled before class and 4 after. So we all hang around after class, waiting our turn.

I had a good talk with Jeffery. We talk about drinking patterns and where it's headed and what I can do about it. He makes sure I know about AA.

Picture This
January 5
Group was uneventful. I get a letter from DMV telling me I need to go back in and get my picture taken again. I can't figure out if this is a belated notice from the October attempt, or a rapid response to the December attempt. I suspect the former; I call and they tell me to just go in again. I wait a few days instead and a new DL shows up with my picture with my hair sticking out all over.

I'm grateful; I could care less about how I look in the picture.

The End of Group
January 12
My next-to-last group! I come knowing I need to set up the final face-to-face for next Monday. Around the end of the meeting, Jeffery says, "Oh, by the way, there's no group next week: it's Martin Luther King's birthday."

At first I'm not sure if he's serious or not. Then I realize he is. This is a major problem, as I have made significant plans for next week that depend on being through with this program. Like I'm moving out of state.

Jeffery tells me to call the office and see if I can do a "make-up" group next Thursday, in advance of the cancelled Monday session. I do; I can; I go. It turns out to be a fun session. Interesting people, lots of stories, and some good laughs.

January 15 completes group and the entire 15-week program. Jeffery and I talk for a while after the group session. I think I'm actually going to miss those Monday meetings. (Jeffery assures me I'd be welcome to stop in some more if I want!)

I still need to go in and pay a fee, and then I can get a certificate that I mail into DMV. If I don't, they suspend my license again.

The only thing left now is the return of unrestricted driving privileges. That should happen on March 25, completing the 5-month suspension that started on September 25.

End of January
I move. I check with the program people to make sure everything's finished and I've paid all my fees. I owe one dollar more, which I pay. Cash money. Then I pack up the last of my stuff in a trailer and put 3 dogs in my Jeep Cherokee and head on out to Portland, Oregon.

I get out of the Bay area just before the worst El Ninõ storms in memory. Pulling a fully loaded u-haul trailer, I get over the Siskyous at about 25 mph. The dogs seem to like the trip. Fourteen hours. It must be legal because I've been "transferred" to our Beaverton, Oregon office, so I'm just "driving to work".

March
I've registered my car in Oregon, but held off on getting an Oregon driver's license, as my license in California isn't clear. On the 25th, it's clear; I check with Oregon DMV, and they agree, so I go get my Oregon DL. Feels great. Only one more thing to deal with: I N S U R A N C E.

April
The good news: I get my order in for a new Volkswagen Beetle. I can hardly wait! Silver, I asked for. They've sold 160 of them in the Beaverton VW place. Four month wait, they tell me.

The bad news. My insurance needs to be renewed. The insurance agency I started with when I moved up here starts hassling me with some right-wing kind of crap. I'm starting to think I've moved to Alabama, not Oregon. I get real uncomfortable with them, and find a new agent. The new agent tells me they can't insure me at all. I freak out. I've had State Farm Insurance for 25 years; nothing on my record (except this DUI) for about 15 years. I plea for help in several places, including my previous agent in California, and eventually they agree to carry me. My insurance bill: $1150 for six months for one car.

Well, in only 9 years, it will be off my record I think.


Some conclusions.

At least I certainly hope they are conclusions - as in finished; final; the end.


First Offender Program
The 15 week program seemed like a nightmare when I started it back in October, but now it seems like it's been a good experience. It really didn't take that much time out of my life - 2 hours weekly - and it was something different to do than go home and sit in front of the TV. It was pretty instructive, not just from the moderators, but from other people's experiences as well.

When it started I couldn't see why they didn't just let you do 30 hours in 4 weekends or something, but the long, slow pace actually was less intrusive and it gives you time to get into the program a bit. In fact, toward the end, I was actually looking forward to Monday nights.

Fines
The fines are steep, but probably don't accomplish much from the standpoint of discouraging recidivism. You can pay the fines at whatever rate you can afford, and fines mostly just seem to engender resentment instead of a desire to avoid.

Weekends
The weekend work is serious punishment. That's probably the thing I most want to never do again. I had six days. Some people had eight. Some had none. The assignment of these days seems to be completely inconsistent from judge to judge or from county to county. Seems unfair. I think the six days was probably fair punishment. Two days would be a lark.

Suspension
The loss of driving privileges is the worst part of the whole deal, especially when coupled with the physical loss of the driver's license. Classic Catch-22: They physically take your driver's license, but it is illegal to be out and about without any identification, and when you report to jail you are required to have a government-issued picture ID. (Some sympathetic county employee took my Price Club card instead.)

Actually, I don't think they should physically take your license. It causes too many unrelated problems not to have any acceptable identification. It is meaningless as far as the police are concerned, because they always call in the DL on every stop anyway. If they feel they need to do something physical, they should punch a hole in your DL somewhere, which sends the message that it is suspended, but still lets you have an ID.

Thirty days of hard suspension was tough but manageable, and something you definitely will not forget. It really makes you appreciate how dependent you are on being able to drive. Try to bring home a bag of dog food on a bicycle sometime. The additional 3-4 months of restricted privileges (work and back) are excessive for a first offense, in my opinion. The point is well made in 30 days. The remainder of the suspension is not well complied with, even though the penalties are awful (they take your car, among other things.) An informal poll of about a dozen people in the program revealed that every one had driven at least once to someplace besides work and back.

I think it is not good to have laws that are extremely harsh, difficult to comply with, and somewhat arbitrarily enforced. It only produces contempt for the law and tends to turn people into criminals for pretty inoccuous behavior. It's hard to comprehend the idea that driving to the grocery store is a serious criminal act, but it becomes one.

Insurance
Insurance you gotta have. Especially after a DUI you gotta have it, as an SR-22 is required; otherwise your license is suspended.

I suppose I can't blame State Farm for doing what they did, although I am really upset with the first agent who really tried to screw me. The main thing at this point is I am absolutely paranoid about getting another ticket for anything.

Have I learned anything?

Yes. Hell, yes.

Frankly I was coming from the "old school", in which I really didn't think of driving after drinking to be a particularly big deal. After all, there was a time not so long ago when it wasn't such a big deal. A fine and a night in the slammer was probably it on the first offense. Not any more. Society and the laws have changed.

I have to change, too: it has to become as unthinkable to me as it has become to "society" to drive after drinking. Drinking any amount. It's that simple.

It's important to realize a couple of things. First, the legal 0.08% limit is very low. Most people who are more than occasional drinkers will exceed this anytime they've had anything to drink. Secondly, you don't have to be acting drunk to get arrested. I'd guess that only about 1/3 of the people in the first offender program did something that was clearly the result of drinking. The other two thirds got stopped for some totally unrelated reason. One person got arrested because someone rear-ended him at a stop light: he did nothing wrong at all. But he got a DUI anyway. One lady got a DUI after being in an accident which may or may not have had anything to do with her drinking: she measured 0.08%. Her car was totalled. The cop came up and started giving her field sobriety tests without even asking her if she was injured. That's the kind of mentality the police have.

So safe driving is no defense. It will be even worse if/when the limit is lowered again, which is under consideration. At that rate, a lot of people will be in danger driving to work in the morning, because of residual amounts from the night before! It basically will turn into an arbitrary police action, giving them the right to really sock it to anyone who has had a drink recently.

Declaring that one will never drive after drinking again is a little hollow. After all, drinking helps one forget those kinds of commitments.

So I think the only successful defense is to never drive to any place where you drink. If your car isn't there, you aren't likely to drive it. It will be interesting to see if I can maintain that principle.



Some other useful links about DUI I've found

(Note for web-searchers: "DUI" also stands for "Delphi User Interface" and some high-action game played with a Frisbee. This may explain some peculiar results you get.)

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