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How not to deal with a DUI

When an individual has been arrested for multiple DUI/OVIs, there is often in the media outrage, with the subtext that the reason the individual reoffended is because the punishment was not severe enough the first time. While it may be that a young or underage driver may be "scared straight" after a single, serious error of judgment, for adults, multiple DUI/OVIs are likely an indicator of a serious chemical dependency problem.

This means there is no incarceration level that would be adequate. They likely understand all too well the negative consequences that come from drinking and driving. Placing them behind bars, however, will never "solve" that issue. It may keep them off the road, protecting them and other drivers, but that safety carries a very high price for the person incarcerated and the taxpayers of Ohio. Last year, the Ohio State Patrol made almost 4,000 OVI stops.

A case from Ohio's neighboring state of Pennsylvania is instructive. A woman apparently had been convicted of a prior DUI/OVI and was required to use an ignition interlock device. This device attaches to the ignition of a vehicle and forces the driver to provide a breath sample before starting the engine and at points along the way.

This avoids incarceration and its attendant costs, presumably allowing them to keep working and protects other motorists from potentially intoxicated drivers. This particular woman was accused of urging her 8-year-old daughter to provide the breath sample to enable her to drive the vehicle, which she then crashed. She fled the scene but was later arrested.

Well, some may argue she should be locked up after this incident. But that would still ignore her substance dependency and without effective treatment, would be unlikely to eliminate that dependency.

The larger problem is that to prevent multiple DUI/OVIs, the underlying problems must be addressed with accurate identification and consistent and effective treatment for these individuals. Unless we make DUI/OVI a Life-in-Prison-No-Parole sentence, incarceration merely moves the date for the next offense a little further into the future.

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Edward R. La Rue
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