We all know drunk driving is as illegal as it is dangerous, and we also all know that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen anyways. While some laws may be stricter than others, the purpose of them is to keep the general public as safe as possible on the roads. Even though total prevention is not yet a reality, the harsh sentences and steep fines have been an effective deterrent against potential drunk drivers.
Mistakes happen, though. Maybe you didn’t think that cocktail was that strong. Maybe you thought all those bar peanuts soaked up the excess. Either way, if you’re facing down a DUI charge, these laws can be a daunting threat. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Less isn’t always more
In theory, anything that makes it easier for someone to keep their freedom and financial security is a good thing. However, having the threat of genuine consequences can be as well, which is the basis behind most laws and regulations out there. It’s not about punishment; it’s about convincing you not to commit the crime in the first place.
A new bill in Virginia is hoping to take that away — sort of. It outlines a plan to remove mandatory minimum sentences for all crimes lesser than a Class 1 felony. Don’t get me wrong — this could be great! But this could also be…not so great.
Hear me out.
Let’s say you’re a first-time DUI offender. You made a bad judgement call, you got caught, no one got hurt. This bill means that the right attorney could talk the judge out of any jail time or fines at all, even if you’re found guilty, and aside from probation you’re on your merry way.
This is where the bill is in your favor. This is where it makes sense. However, this wouldn’t only apply to first-time offenders. Serial drunk drivers could find the exact same result, which means they have no reason not to keep doing it. As a criminal defense attorney, it’s important to recognize that making it easier to get away with drunk driving is not exactly justice. There needs to be accountability, and yes — maybe a bit of fear.
Why it matters
If the above seems harsh, it’s only because the dangers of driving under the influence can truly not be understated. When you get behind the wheel drunk, especially if it’s a habit of yours, you’re not only endangering your life but the lives of everyone else on the road. For example, in Maryland from 2011-2015, the 2018 Maryland Highway Safety Plan found that impaired driving caused one in three fatal crashes in the state.
That’s equal parts mind-boggling and tragic. Again, though, this isn’t about who deserves punishment and who doesn’t, it’s about what sort of deterrents can actually save lives. It may stink if you’re one of the repeat offenders, but it should be a sign to, well, stop repeating the offense. This would be why Maryland has harsher sentences for that very situation, with license suspensions, jail time, and fines in the thousands. Even though your defense attorney should work to get you the lesser sentence possible, the idea is to prevent the scenario entirely.
So yes, minimum sentences should probably exist so that consequences do as well. Every citizen deserves a fair trial — but that does not mean every wrong should be excused, or that it being excused should even be an option.
Now, that all being said, this bill is in Virginia. We are not in Virginia. (Well, you might be — I’m not judging.) Here in Maryland, minimum sentences are still very much a thing, as are the rather-extreme maximums. So if you are facing a DUI charge, whether it’s your first offense or your third, you’re going to need a competent DUI attorney on your side. In other words, you need Drew Cochran, Attorney at Law. Your right to a fair trial doesn’t go away when you make a mistake and we know how to protect it. Whether you’re in Annapolis or Ellicott City (but not Virginia — sorry), you can count on us for compassionate, understanding representation. To learn more, call us today at 410-271-1892 or fill out our online contact form.
And remember — Keep Calm and Call Drew!