Understanding Repeat DUI

Holiday weekends tend to see an increase in DUI arrests, and this Labor Day weekend, which is also the opening of college football season, is no exception. In fact, as the weekend began, a former Oklahoma senator was arrested for a DUI-related complaint for the third time in a year. Cal Hobson, who is currently running for public office in a bid for Cleveland County Commissioner, was arrested in Lexington at approximately 8:30 Saturday morning. He was arrested on a complaint of being in actual physical control of a vehicle (APC) while under the influence of alcohol. Unlike DUI, an APC charge does not require that the person is actually driving a vehicle while under the influence of an intoxicating substance. If an intoxicated or impaired person has "actual physical control" of a vehicle--for example, sitting in the driver's seat of a parked vehicle with access to the keys--he or she may be charged with APC. Although he or she does not have to be driving to have an alcohol-related charge, the penalties for APC are the same as those for DUI. Hobson was charged with a misdemeanor DUI offense in 2013, and just a few months ago, he was charged with aggravated DUI and with attempting to bribe an officer to let him off the hook. Repeat DUI offenses are common, and typically, it is not because those with prior DUI convictions were not punished harshly enough to deter them from drinking and driving in the future. In most cases, repeat DUI offenders are not flagrantly trying to defy law; rather, they are saddled with an addiction that remains untreated. Certainly, there are those for whom a DUI is a one-time mistake. These people may have had a few drinks and thought they were still okay to drive, or they may have had way too many and suffered from impaired judgment. For people who are not troubled by alcoholism, the punishment of a DUI conviction and its associated penalties may be enough to keep them from drinking and driving again. For alcoholics and those plagued with addiction, no penalties are severe enough to conquer their demons and deter them from drinking and driving. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) cites the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in reporting that, on average, a person has driven drunk 80 times prior to his or her first DUI arrest. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that approximately one-third of all people arrested for DUI have at least one prior DUI convictions--more than 30 percent are repeat DUI offenders. Additionally, 1 in 8 drivers in fatal DUI accidents have had a prior DUI conviction within the previous three years. So how do we combat DUI recidivism? Longer jail terms? Stiffer fines? Lengthier license suspension? Harsher penalties may have some effect on combating DUI, but in all likelihood, these punishments will do little to nothing to curb repeat DUI. Repeat offenders are often fueled by an addiction that compels them to drink and drive despite the penalties they face. Without treating the underlying problem of alcohol or drug addiction, DUI penalties can bring no lasting change.