One of my pet peeves is how lenient our judicial system is on drunk drivers. I understand that for some, drinking is an addiction that needs to be treated, but for others, it’s not an addiction. They know that they are going to be driving after drinking but choose to disobey the law and place others in harm’s way.
I live just south of Cincinnati and I can’t tell you how many times I see on the news where some local man or woman is caught driving drunk for the umpteenth time. Case in point is 45 year old Cary Francis of Adams County, Ohio. He wrecked his three wheeled motorcycle and had to be airlifted to the hospital. He has been charged with OVI (operating vehicle intoxicated) for the ninth time, driving without a license and failure to control his vehicle. What if he had hit someone else and injured or killed them?
I recall one account about ten years ago where an Ohio man was caught driving drunk for the 29th time. His driver’s license had been suspended years ago, but that didn’t stop him from driving without a license or driving drunk. My question is why is this man even walking free? How many times does it take before his sorry butt is slapped in jail where he can sober up and get off the booze? Does he have to kill someone first?
Brenda Amerson did just that. She was driving drunk and ran into a bucket truck that was working along Dixie Highway here in Florence, Kentucky. Thirty year old Joel Rebennack was standing behind his bucket truck, out of the line of traffic, but Amerson was so drunk that she couldn’t keep her car in the line of traffic either and ended up pinning Rebennack against his work truck. The injured worker was taken to the hospital and died later that night. Amerson has been arrested and charged with drunken driving, manslaughter, wanton endangerment and criminal mischief.
But are those the right charges?
According to one legal dictionary, manslaughter is defined as:
“The unjustifiable, inexcusable, and intentional killing of a human being without deliberation, premeditation, and malice. The unlawful killing of a human being without any deliberation, which may be involuntary, in the commission of a lawful act without due caution and circumspection.”
When Amerson went drinking, did she know that she would be driving afterwards? If so, that means that she made a premeditated decision to drink and then drive, regardless of what happened as a result of her drinking. That means that her actions were NOT without deliberation nor were they involuntary. In my opinion, Amerson should be charged with premediated murder, aka first degree murder, and face the same penalty as any other person found guilty of intentionally killed someone.
If driving drunk carried a much stiffer penalty such as mandatory prison time, I’m sure there would be fewer people injured and killed by them. If they have an addiction, then that could be treated while in prison. For each subsequent offense, the prison time is longer and there should be no chance of parole, probation or any other form of early release.
Why do I take such a strong stand against drunk drivers? Because my three best friends growing up were killed by a drunk driver who had previous arrests for DUI. He had been arrested for DUI just three weeks prior to killing my friends, but he was a wealthy and well known doctor and always seem to buy his way out of jail.
On that fateful Friday afternoon, the doctor had a blood alcohol level of .24. The legal level in Arizona at the time was .10. He was speeding and ran a red light, hitting my friends’ car broadside. The impact was so severe that it wrapped JJ’s Dodge Charger around a traffic light pole, sheered it off but it kept standing because of the car holding it up.
The doctor was charged with DUI, speeding, running a red light and three counts of vehicular manslaughter. The trial was before a judge, not a jury and the judge acquitted him of the deaths for reasons I have never understood. The doctor paid $150 in traffic fines, his driver’s license was suspended for a whole 45 days and then he walked away free as a bird.
That doctor knew he would be driving after he was drinking, yet he knowingly chose to do it anyway. I believe that he should have bene charged with three counts of murder in the first degree and should have been tried before a jury who I’m sure would have rendered a guilty verdict. That doctor should have either been sentenced to life in prison without parole or given the death sentence. If that would have happened, I would have been sitting front row at the prison to watch him pay for his crime.
The problem in getting stiffer penalties for driving drunk is that alcohol is a huge industry in the United States and too many politicians are caught driving drunk. They wouldn’t want to pass any kind of law that could put them in prison for life, so nothing will change and thousands of innocent Americans will continue to be injured and killed by drunk drivers. Sadly, many of them would never have to face their tragedy if our legal and judicial system took a harsher stand on drunk driving and my three friends along Rebennack would still be alive and with their families.