The following article is written by Michael Viscosi, Senior Attorney in our Albany office.
Based on the hundreds of clients I have spoken with over the years, I was able to glean a handful of consistent themes for those who have never been arrested for DWI before, or in most cases, never been arrested for anything in their life.
Below one of our client’s explains her personal experience with being arrested for a DWI, how costly it can actually be, and the damage it can do if you don’t have the right legal team on your side.
In my case it was nighttime and I was driving my husband’s new car when I bumped into the car in front of me at a stop sign. The driver of that car was a newly licensed teenaged girl in her father’s car. She wasn’t hurt and neither was her dad’s car, but she was crying hysterically and called 911, probably doing exactly what her dad told her to do. Within seconds, two police cars arrived, lights flashing, blips of sirens etc.
For whatever reason, I froze up and did not do what the officers on scene asked of me. I thought that I had a right to remain silent but apparently that right had been trumped by the necessity of blowing into a square black machine with a tube and a mouthpiece in the back room of a police station. I ended up spending the night in jail. I was strip searched, given a bright orange uniform and sent to a cell with about five other women who had been through this a few times already. The female guards were so cruel, making fun of us, and taunting us.
I feel I was targeted in particular because I refused a Breathalyzer and a blood draw thinking maybe I could fight the charge by giving them less evidence. What I didn’t know until much later was that the consequences are more severe if you refused these tests and are found guilty. I also wasn’t thinking that of course the police would search my car and find the half empty bottle of vodka in my briefcase in the passenger’s seat. Normal drinkers usually don’t keep it so handy, is my guess. In today’s America we acknowledge that alcoholics are sick with a disease but we also condone locking up sick people who are struggling to get better.
Humiliation is the first thing you feel and then all the rest of the mess you’ve made settles in as you sober up. For me, it started with fear. Who knows about this? Obviously my husband knows, but do my kids know? How do I explain this to them? Will it be in the paper? Our local paper reports DWI’s all the time. Will I lose my new job? What will my friends and neighbors say about this? What about my ability to drive?
I was supposed to be at a breakfast fundraiser in a few hours, but instead was in a cell staring at a bologna sandwich on square white bread. What’s the bail going to be? Will I have to serve time? How much is this going to cost? But mostly, what will it cost me to get back into good graces with my family?
The DWI was concrete evidence to my husband that I had a drinking problem. Something I couldn’t excuse my way out of anymore. The half empty bottle of vodka was probably going to be the last straw with him I figured, until we met with the lawyer. He’d already seen the video of my arrest and told us it wasn’t pretty and even suggested we shouldn’t watch it. He assured us, though, that I’d be found guilty based on the video, the vodka, the police report, and witness statements. What ensued after that was a year of anxiety, guilt, fear and shame, not to mention thousands of dollars down the tubes.
The state basically runs your life for a few years after getting arrested for DWI. Your license is revoked until your hearing and then, if unsuccessful, your license is toast for a year or more. You have to hire a lawyer to represent you at the many court appearances you must attend until your case is settled. Your case won’t be settled unless you attend court-mandated drug and alcohol classes in the evenings several times a week for a few months. You also have to do whatever you can to show the court that you’re remorseful, like attend an outpatient rehab program, which I did. I also had to see a professional counselor privately for about a year and get an evaluation/letter to the court basically stating that I’m not a risk to the public anymore – that I’m in recovery. All of this plus the court fees totaled in the tens of thousands and three years of probation. Our car insurance quadrupled for three years – so add another $6,000.00
The money we had to shell out was bad enough, but the constant fear that my employer would do random driving record searches on employees and find me out was awful. The lies I had to tell to explain work-absences for court appearances and drug classes chipped away at my self-worth. Did I mention that during the period between arrest and sentencing (which was 18 months in my case) you aren’t allowed to leave the state without the court’s permission? Well my job entailed managing people in 8 states and I was expected to travel a lot. Maneuvering constantly to keep afloat became an everyday stressor.
Absolutely nothing compared to the way it felt to have let my family down, though. My kids were spared, thank God, but everyone else knew; my parents, brothers, in-laws, friends, husband’s business partners and friends. It was awful. I believe the word is shame.
There’s an ad campaign I see a lot now on road signs that says: “DWI. You can’t afford it.”
I totally get that now.
The exclusive purpose of this article is educational and it is not intended as either legal advice or a general solution to any specific legal problem. Corporate offices for Nave DWI Defense Attorneys are located at 432 N. Franklin Street, Suite 80, Syracuse, NY 13204; Telephone No.: 1-866-792-7800. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Attorney Advertising.