I often say my clients are frequently regular people who made a one time mistake. Today in the news, we see a highly respected middle school principal from Dedham arrested for OUI. She was not only a well-regarded professional, but she was named middle school principal of the year in 2015.
When we see stories of well regarded, prominent community and local leaders into Massachusetts courts on DUI charges, that should illuminate the fact that a drunk driving charge could happen to practically anybody.
It should evoke empathy, not scorn and finger wagging.
Sure, there are always celebrity DUIs in the news, but quite honestly, no one expects celebrities to act responsibly, and they rarely get any sympathy.
When Justin Beiber, some minor league reality TV star or flailing starlet train-wreck gets busted after driving while obviously hammered, people typically dismiss such news as the actions of narcissistic idiots, and perhaps rightly so.
Yet we see well-respected people who should “know better” (and certainly do) get arrested just the same. Principal Debra Gately is a highly regarded professional and public servant. While we absolutely should not pre-judge the facts of this case before they become clear, whatever happened does not change the fact of who she is, the fine work she has done, and the respect she has earned.
In the past we’ve seen news stories in Massachusetts of a local police chief in Sudbury and the Catholic Bishop of Worcester.
Do these upstanding individuals from our community get the same level of scorn as celebrities? From some people, unfortunately, they do. But for a lot of people, maybe even most folks, you can probably imagine a time where this could have happened to you.
Drinking alcohol is a normal and legal social activity, millions of people do it every day. And some percentage of them will consume one or two too many, and exercise some bad judgement. It happens.
And, yes, of course, there are people who have serious alcohol addiction problems, or other temporary or longer term problems in their life that lead them to make a series of bad decisions, which may include driving while tipsy, or worse.
While no one condones this, it is a fact of life.
But it’s also true that most people who are arrested once on a DUI charge never get in trouble again. Once they’ve been arrested, people with otherwise normally good judgement pretty much decide they never want to go through that experience again and make better choices going forward. Multiple offenders may be a different story, and often have chronic addiction issues.
And it is also absolutely a fact that you can get still arrested even if you are legitimately not impaired, and blow under the legal limit. All it takes is to look a little shaky by the side of the road with cars whizzing past you,fail some field sobriety tests that are stacked against you because of bad feet, bad knees or dozens of other legit reasons, and you’ll find yourself in cuffs in the back of a cruiser on your way to be booked at the police station.
And let’s not even get into states like Arizona that have decided you can legally be arrested and convicted for DUI from marijuana, even if you are not impaired, and haven’t smoke in weeks, yet the pot still sits in your bloodstream or hair. Preposterous.
The bottom line is that, more often than not, my clients who have been charged with drunk driving are regular folks not at all different from anyone else. They deserve respect, sympathy, and a second chance.