September 27, 2006
Driver In Alki DUI Deaths Extolled Drinking And Driving, Online
A drunk driver took another life in Seattle last weekend, in South Park, as the P-I reports today. With the cases of Susan West and Mary Jane Rivas fresh in mind, tolerance for intoxicated drivers is wearing awfully thin. And now, it turns out the Alki DUI deaths last Sunday are even spookier than reported in Seattle dailies so far. We already know that Roy Espiritu, 17, killed himself and another passenger when at 5 a.m. - and after police say he just had alcohol - he drove into Puget Sound at a speed of up to 100 mph. But dailies in Tacoma and Bellingham and Longview carry an AP report he had an online paean to booze at MySpace. Why no coverage of that yet in Seattle dailies? The Times report yesterday plays up the Native-American ties of the other victim. Fair enough. But not enough. AP reports:
In his page on MySpace.com, Espiritu listed his interests as alcohol, beer, booze, hard liquor, spirits and wine and wrote, "Don't drink-n-drive -- Drive-n-Drink."
Parents: know your children, and their lives.
Posted by Matt Rosenberg at September 27, 2006
11:09 AM | Email This
See Eric's post for a lively discussion of personal responsibility. I think this post falls along similar lines. I don't think this senseless tragedy is worth noting in any new and enlightening context. Yes it is wrong to drive while grossly intoxicated, and especially in such a manner as to be incredibly dangerous. But this does not warrent some kind of draconian crackdown on alcohol, or automobiles, or teens, etc.
What we need is a greater culture of personal responsibility that encourages people, and especially young and inexperienced people to make good choices. I think that to a certain degree, the more we legislate safety nets the more we distract from the root problem of a culture that no longer encourages or expects people to make good choices.
I agree that parents should know their children and their lives, but I don't think this is anything new, it's mostly just a sensational story for a news media that feeds off of such vivid imagery.
One of the problems is that many trial judges in the district and municipal courts are routinely excluding DUI breath tests from being admitted into evidence, for just about any reason imaginable.
Here is an article from the December 20, 2005 King County Journal about how Frank LaSalata, as a substitute judge, threw out the 0.132 and 0.122 breath test results for Seattle SuperSonics forward Rashard Lewis at arraignment:
Without this crucial bit of evidence to use at trial, the King County Prosecuting Attorney was forced to plea bargain the charges down to reckless driving. LaSalata also presided over Lewis' plea bargain and sentencing a few months later.
The procedure in the Lewis case was unusual, and very unfair to the prosecution. Normally, motions to exclude evidence are set on a special calendar, with at least one week notice to the prosecution as required by court rules. But LaSalata allowed Lewis' attorneys to bring the motion to arraignment (where lots of ORDINARY defendants were patiently waiting for LaSalata to hopefully explain their rights to an attorney, the right to a jury trial, and other important rights) without advance notice to the prosecution. As you can see from the King County Journal article, the deputy prosecutor was quite upset at the procedure used by LaSalata.
LaSalata is now running for a regular elected seat as district court judge. LaSalata is presently 22 votes ahead of incumbent Mary Ann Ottinger for second place in this race. Depending on how the last few hundred ballots and the inevitable manual recount go, LaSalata could be facing me in the general election in November.
LaSalata was asked about the most important cases he had ever handled as a lawyer or judge. In response to the KCBA questionnaire, LaSalata listed five drunk driving cases he presided over as a substitute judge, and how he had thrown out the DUI breath test results for a variety of reasons.
Coincidentally, the majority of LaSalata's campaign contributions (other than the money coming out of his own pocket) appear to be coming from attorneys who specialize in DUI defense or other criminal defense.
As The Olympian editorial points out, only 43% of DUI charges result in convictions. 27% are pleaded to lesser charges and 17% dismissed entirely. Probably only a very small percentage of these DUI dismissals result from having a jury trial where the judge has allowed the BAC breath test results to be presented in evidence to the jury.
WA gives DUI's a pass. We talk tough but wimp out on the application of real consequences.
For any driver under 21. Any DUI, reckless, or negligent citation results in the loss of the license until age 21. The 3rd traffic infraction would also invoke this punishment. The car is also confiscated, no matter if owned by the parents or not. If its the parents car they needed extend more control over the driver. Any vehicle driven by a suspended driver under 21 is simply gone.
Make driving while stupid hurt and hurt badly, the learning curve for driving is pretty steep, the loss of a license is car is damn cheap compared to cost of the Alki crash, 2 dead and a totaled car.
In general my idea for DUI is simple direct and designed to get the offenders undivided attention.
1st offense -- loss of license for 1 year and loss of the car. Caught driving in that year the loss of license becomes permanent and the car is lost. I am willing to give them one and only one chance to learn the lesson.
2nd offense -- permanent loss of the drivers license, and loss of the car. Caught driving after that drunk or not counts as an DUI offense.
3rd offense -- 5 years and loss of the car.
4th offense -- 25 years and loss of the car.
5th time -- life.
Until we get serious about DUI and make the offense have serious long lasting consequences on the life and life style of the offender nothing will change.
I learned my lesson 2 months after my 16th birthday. I joined the volunteer FD as soon as I had my license, we could join at 16 back then. 2 months later I was putting a DUI with virtually every bone broken in a body bag.
I know my sample is unscientific, and JCM would probably know more, but I view the witch hunt for DUI drivers as misguided and largely related to the obvious gotcha of DUI vs. simply reckless driving, which does not have the obvious attached "cause."
I see a lot of really dangerous and reckless driving that goes unpunished, and in most cases, I think it people who are not DUI, but simply driving reckless. Just last week my brother was involved in a hit and run during the morning commute. Police, and our legal system seem to be hyper focused on DUI instead of on bad driving and / or dangerous and distracted driving as a whole. I see this as a big problem because police focus less on bad driving and more on looking for DUI drivers, however slight their level of intoxication because they are easier to catch and easier to book on probable cause. DUI drivers thus become the poster children for a much larger problem of bad driving.
I think we see the same thing in the medical world with AIDS. AIDS is not anywhere near the killer of other diseases, but it has an attached "cause" and a crusade and lobbyists, and hollywood adoration, etc. so it often eclipses diseases that are much greater problems.
I'm not apologizing for drunk driving, but frankly, I'd much rather see the asshole that violently cuts me off on the freeway while weaving in and out of traffic busted, because that happens far more often than drunk driving and yet is equally dangerous in potential outcome.
I've always maintained that habitual drunk drivers need to be executed. My preferred method would be a hanging by the roadside with a sign around their neck that said DUI.
While it may not be much of a deterrent, at least we would eliminate a worthless segment of our society that insists on endangering all of us.
NO, I'm not joking in the slightest....
Drunk driving is given a complete pass in our society because there is so much money to made off of "treating" it. Instead of incarcerating drunk drivers, or even making it a painful experience, all we do is fine them, make them go to worthless AA meetings, and raise their insurance rates. All of this means absolutely nothing to the majority of habitual DUI violators out there - it's time we took the problem seriously and did something other than talk loudly while doing nothing.
6. So the PI didn't say that this was the President's fault?
I don't know the stats on reck and neg driving as opposed to DUI. But I would be comfortable lumping them into the same penalty scheme.
Part of the problem is the drivers ed programs. They are geared to teaching someone point their car down the road, and to pass a 25 question test. Real driving skills are not taught, defensive driving is mentioned but not taught as a skill or attitude, accident avoidance skills.
On the enforcement side, the local PD's are understaffed and traffic enforcement takes a back seat to other crime. The State Patrol is too paper driven, troopers spend far too much on documentation.
Finally we as a society accept 20,000 a year dead at the hands of DUI drivers. Witness the last leg sessions "tough" on DUI bill.
We need to dump the idea that driving is right or for that matter travel. The right to travel is not in the Constitution, but has been accepted in case law. Denying a person a drivers license merely precludes one method of travel not the ability to travel.
Driving is a privilege with heavy responsibilities. Drunk drivers however deprive 20,000 citizens a year the right to life. DUI, neg and reckless driving demonstrates a serious disregard for the responsibility of driving and callous indifference to the rights of others. As such those actions should be heavily sanctioned.
8. I think it is worth reporting, but not in the poor kid sense. They should be showing the kids parents, family and friends totally miserable, maybe another kids parents will ask a few more questions of their teen before they leave for the night. Besides that, how many people saw him on the road before this and never called 911? People have to start seeing and caring about their communities enough to do something other than hope someone else will do something.
I'm in agreement tough sanctions, but it should be even tougher to get a license in the first place. I see no reason why we give out as many licenses as we do. I'd make the driving test really tough, with a very tough road test. Granted it would cost more, but we could get a return on that investment through lowered insurance premiums and an overall lowering of the societal cost of driving.
The state made a mistake when they lowered the DUI level to .08 from .10. This was for show, it didn't address the real problem of repeat offenders. It looked good and it sounded good. Democrats could claim to be tough on drunk driving, without having to actually do anything about it.
Then last session the Democrats had the opportunity to make life tougher for repeat offenders, and they totally passed on it. They decided the cost was too high to send those who are truly a danger to society to prison.
First time offenders: depends on whether they were recklessly driving. If so, license suspension and heavy fine and 1 year interlock. If not, up to the judge.
Second time offenders: mandatory interlock device on any car they drive, for the rest of their life. These people are going to drive, whether they have a license or not. If they are caught driving a car without an interlock device, the car is confiscated by the state, regardless of who owns it.
Third offense: felony charge and one year in jail, no early release for good behavior.
Fourth offense: life in jail.
But I'd raise the alcohol level to .10. Otherwise it catches too many who are not a threat to public safety, and promotes the whole lawyer/court industry.
I don't understand why; as a nation, we know by daily count-How many Americans were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan; but it takes us years to find out how many total Americans died in car wrecks, work related accidents, murders, etc.
The latest national figures for auto related deaths (2005) were released 20 Apr 06 and are only preliminary.
""""According to a preliminary report from the Department of Transportation�s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 43,200 died on the nation�s highways in 2005, up from 42,636 in 2004. Injuries dropped from 2.79 million in 2004 to 2.68 million in 2005, a decline of 4.1 percent. Fifty-five percent of passenger vehicle occupants who died in 2005 were unbelted.
"Every year this country experiences a national tragedy that is as preventable as it is devastating," said Secretary Mineta. "We have the tools to prevent this tragedy � every car has a safety belt, every motorcycle rider should have a helmet and everyone should have enough sense to never drive while impaired".
NHTSA�s report projects a fatality rate of 1.46 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT), up from the record low of 1.44 in 2004. NHTSA also found safety belt use is at 82 percent nationwide.
The report also projects the eighth straight increase in motorcycle fatalities. In 2005, 4,315 motorcyclists died, a 7.7 percent increase. In 2004, there were 4,008 motorcycle fatalities, the report said.""""""
An average of over 118 deaths per day just from auto/motorcycle wrecks. 55% of those unbelted or unhelmeted is a national disgrace.
12. Looking at the stats, if 82% of drivers nationally are seat belted, and 55% of the fatalities were not seat belted or not helmted, that would also indicate these were some pretty careless operators/bad drivers as well as being too lazy for protective gear.
too much press time; memorials. greiving. native dummers.
hey--stupid act gets payoff. what about choked police officer's alleged killer gets off (no charges) in North End; what about illegal immigrant girl tossing live baby into dumpster--light or no charges.
sorry--stupidity at any age will not jerk my tears anymore. highway memorials notwithstanding. enough already with dumb perps getting the big tear. at any age.
where are the stories about good, decent kids doing great things?
14. This one's a layup - in the Times and PI's PC-blindered world, it's "insensitive", "mean", and/or "racist" to write about Native Americans and alcohol, even if it's factual.
I like your proposal, and especially raising the level to .10. I think that is reasonable and it will catch the more serious offenders. I think most people think that blowing .08 means that one is extremely drunk, when it actuality it takes very little alcohol to reach .08. Many studies have shown that one is more impaired while talking on a cell phone as compared with having a couple drinks with dinner and driving home. Yet no doubt cell phone related accidents are rapidly if not already a greater source of driver impairment and accident than alcohol. Again, not defending drunk driving, but the laws on the books now are too focused on alcohol and don't give nearly the same weight to reckless or inattentive driving sans alcohol.
16. We need leaders who understand what it's like to drive drunk. Elect Mike McGavick!
Jeff@15-- I disagree. When I drink enough to have .08% BAC according to the charts, I'm way too drunk to drive. I have no sympathy for people who blow a .08 or .10 and say they just had a couple of beers -- they're lying.
I favor much more severe penalties for DUI, although it's somewhat arbitrary to make loss of the car a big part of the penalty -- it will just incent people to drive an old car when they want to drive drunk, and penalize poor drunk drivers more than rich ones. I have no problem penalizing poor drunk drivers, but I want to penalize rich ones too. I think even the first DUI should involve jail time and an ignition interlock (assuming they're effective -- are they?) as well as some fines, education, and loss of privileges. And I agree that the second offense should be punished much more severely.
18. Bruce, like Jeff I don't defend drunk driving in the least. In fact, I just served on a jury that convicted a drunk driver in a pretty borderline case. But I believe that the fight against drunk driving has moved beyond rational social policy, and into a new phase of morality crusade. Drunk driving should be punished heavily because it causes injuries, death, and damage to innocent people. Those same outcomes result from other types of reckless driving, such as speeding, tailgating, and the inattention caused by using cell phones. That can be proven statistically. So why have we decided to crack down in such a draconian manner on only one aspect of this social problem, while paying almost no attention to others? And if I were to show you that speaking on a cell phone while driving is as dangerous as driving with a .08 blood alcohol content, do you believe that offenders should be sentenced to the same penalties you propose for drunk driving? Why not? My opinion is that this distinction is based upon moral disapproval of alcohol consumption, and it is unrelated to rational government policy.
We obviously don't take drinking and driving serious in our community.
If we did, the Republican Party would have renounced Mike McGavick and would have found a last minute candidate to run in his place (or against him if he had refused to step down).
So, I guess this is no big deal. Just another "Mainstream" Republican hypocrisy.
20. First thing that needs to be done, whether DUI or just reckless driving, is to immediately confiscate the car upon 1st conviction! Too many people are out there driving without a license, or on a suspended license, and if people knew they could lose their car, they would be much more selective about who they let drive! I think the person who gave Mary Jane Rivas an SUV, which she used to plow into and kill Joselito Barber, should be charged with accessory to vehicular homocide! Sell the car at auction and the funds go to hire more cops or pay for resitution to the victim, if applicable. Maybe some of these folks blabbing on their cell phones would decide that their conversation really wasn't that necessary if they heard about a few people losing their transportation! Driving is a privilege, not a right and we need to start treating it as such!
21. Bruce, your political party seems to have no problem endorsing and re-electing Ted Kennedy (who actually killed someone while driving drunk and sought no help for her), and Patrick Kennedy, who is currently deep in the throes of addiction. You have no moral authority to condemn McGavick, therefore.
There are several reasons why DUI is treated more seriously than driving while cellphoning, changing CDs, applying makeup, eating a Big Mac, etc. First is that it kills more people -- DUI is responsible for about half the total traffic fatalities. Second is that DUI is much easier to prove.
Misty, Ted Kennedy is not in "my" party, and anyway, I've never voted for him. What he did was inexcusable, far worse than what McGavick did. And I've said before that the DUI is the least of McGavick's flaws.
There should be automatic jail time for a first offense. Thirty to ninty days depending on if there was any property damage. Injure someone and you lose your license for 10 years and spend a minimum of a year in the hoosegow. Kill someone and you lose your license for life and face an automatic sentence of 10-15 years, no parole.
Forced rehab does not work. Just suspending the license does not work. We need to have statewide enforcement of the impoundment of vehicles of drivers with suspended licenses because these drunks will drive with or without a license.
H Moul at post 5: AA meetings are worthless when a bleeding heart court gives the accused a choice of attending AA meetings or jail time. Guess which they will choose? Duh. The true purpose of AA is a very good one and the organization does not proclaim to solve the world's problems or insist on more lenient treatment of drunk drivers. What AA does advocate is a system for people who have finally realized the booze has impacted their lives and it is time to seek help and accept responsibility. It's too bad wussy judges use AA as a dumping ground for people who have no desire to sober up.
Here's a link to a report on the findings of a University of Utah study that shows that talking on a cell phone is as bad, or worse than, drunk driving. I want to make sure that all of you people that are calling for life sentences, execution, etc... for drunk drivers, are supporting the same penalties for people talking on cell phones. And if not, why?
Using a driving simulator under four different conditions: with no distractions, using a handheld cell phone, talking on a hands-free cell phone, and while intoxicated to the 0.08 percent blood-alcohol level, 40 participants followed a simulated pace car that braked intermittently.
Researchers found that the drivers on cell phones drove more slowly, braked more slowly and were more likely to crash. In fact, the three participants who collided into the pace car were chatting away. None of the drunken drivers crashed.
"This study does not mean people should start driving drunk," said co-author Frank Drews. "It means that driving while talking on a cell phone is as bad as or maybe worse than driving drunk, which is completely unacceptable and cannot be tolerated by society."
We have a law for inattentive driving which covers cell phones to lattes to baby in back.
I don't have a problem for stiff penalties for a distrated driver who are a hazard.
The big difference is the DUI driver is a hazard from the moment the key goes in the ignition, the cell phone is a hazard during the period of distraction.
26. They're only as dangerous as drunk drivers while they're on the phone. So they should only be prosecuted if they use their phone while driving. Just like people who drink are only prosecuted for being drunk while driving.
27. Parents, PLEASE set up your own account at Myspace.com so you can go to your kid's site and see what they are really doing and talking about!!
28. I'm not defending drivers on cellphones, but the Utah study doesn't say that phoning drivers are more dangerous than drunk drivers, just that they're more likely to rear-end someone. Most of the drunk-driving accidents you hear about involve reckless behavior are much more dramatic than rear-enders. In fact, the Utah study noted that cellphones made people drive more slowly! Furthermore, they were testing at an .08% BAC, nothing close to, say, Mike McGavick's.
A recent study showed that at .04 50 percent of people have their reactions impared enough to pose a significant risk behind the wheel. At .08 that number jumps to 100 percent.
We desperately need the state legislature to step up and make 3 DUI's a felony. The arguement agsinst it that seems to prevail in Olympia is that it is too costly and we already have too many people in jail.
So my question to all of you, are you willing to pay for new jails?
30. Hey Matt, what is your opinion of the DUI lawyer advertising under Sound Politic's banner? Conflict of interest or free-market home run?