[Originally published on Monday, April 7, 2014.]
There is nothing more sobering than the white flags of your exhale at 2 a.m.; the empty feeling of transforming from person to proof of bad choices. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving statistics, 89,256 drunk driving arrests were made in Texas in 2012, 38 percent of all total traffic deaths were related drunk driving in that same year.
Statistics are hollow things until you are in a holding cell playing every inmate’s favorite game, “So…why you in here?” Statistics are intangible until you are driving your boss around, forced to blow into your breathalyzer before turning the ignition.
Fiesta celebrations are upon us. Alcohol consumption will spike in the city for 18 days from April 10-27. Let my story serve as your deterrent to driving while under the influence, let my arrest prevent yours.
I was arrested three months ago on January 6 while driving through Castle Hills after drinking with some friends at Korova. I cried for a bit in the back of the cruiser, but later had some nice conversation with the officer. We chatted about music and perks of the job. I blew .09, which is .01 above the legal limit.
I spent nine hours in a holding cell with one woman charged with a stabbing, one nailed for shoplifting, and another charged with housing a fugitive. One of the guards recognized me from frequenting HiTones. He wanted to know if I was going to the show on Tuesday. At one point, I was escorted to a tiny, bricked room where a Bexar County employee proceeded to order breakfast and unwrap birthday presents in front of me rather than discuss my case. I stifled the screams clawing their way up my throat. “Sorry ma’am, can’t help you,” was the only answer to all of our questions. Frustrating doesn’t even begin to describe it, and that is only the beginning.
There are things I started to miss. This is the order in which I started missing them: Chapstick. Toilet Paper. Pride. Dog. Boyfriend. The ability to run.
The entire experience gave me a new appreciation for Orange is the New Black.
After two frustrating court dates followed by “serious discussions” with both my boss and mother, I accepted a plea deal: a $500 fine, plus 48 hours of community service, an interlock system with camera installed in my car for six months, three DWI impact courses and probation for a year. The charge is a class B misdemeanor. A DWI is a class B misdemeanor as well, but the idea is to alleviate some of the stigma associated with a DWI conviction.
Below are the expenses I have incurred thus far. Bail – $500. Tow truck – $200. Fine – $500 plus court costs. Lawyer’s fee – $500 (is heavily reduced). Breathalyzer with camera: less than $90/month per month for six months = $540. New drivers license – $30. DWI impact classes – $50 per class, of which I have to take three.
TOTAL COST: $2,420.
The most difficult part of the process isn’t the cost, though. It’s coming to terms with the fact that this was my fault.
About a year ago I lost one of my former students, Brandon. He was riding his bike to the ice cream truck and was hit by a drunk driver. It was 5 p.m. The driver was 16 years old. Brandon was six. Brandon was all I could think about in those first few hours while I stewed in jail. Then I thought of the driver. I am grateful I didn’t hurt anyone other than myself with my poor choices. But that’s no excuse. It just means I was lucky. Every day I feel guilty.
San Antonio police and their counterparts in surrounding towns and suburbs will be on a mission during Fiesta to cut down on drunk driving and thus prevent tragic, alcohol-related accidents and deaths. In 2011, Bexar County adopted the no-refusal program, in which warrants are requested to draw blood for all drunken-driving suspects who refuse to take a field sobriety test and submit to a breathalyzer. Advice from my lawyer:
“If you get stopped, be polite (and) ask to speak to an attorney, refuse to blow, refuse all tests and don’t answer any questions without an attorney present … they’ll arrest you but the less evidence they have against you the better it looks for your case.”
Take it from me: Don’t chance it. Don’t put yourself in the position where your only choice is a field sobriety test or a trip to jail. There are ample alternatives to avoid the legal, moral and financial pain that comes with a DWI. Among your choices:
- Call a cab.
- Rideshare: Lyft and Uber are now offering free rides to avoid violating the city ordinance. Take this opportunity and utilize the mobile “rideshare” option.
- TxDOT and Yellow Cab San Antonio has a four-year-old program that provides free cab rides to Fiesta revelers who may be too drunk to drive. The program has helped keep the event safe and partners with SAPD and Silver Eagle Distributors.
- VIA’s park and ride initiative.
- Riders Under the Influence (RUI): This volunteer service, inspired by the friends and family of a young girl killed by a drunk driver, drives you AND your car home on Friday and Saturday nights between the hours of 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. A common “reason” that people risk driving drunk is that they don’t want to go through the hassle of getting their car the next day. Drivers are volunteers, donations are welcome. Check out www.RUIsanantonio.org or call 210-999-0200. (Thanks to our reader, Christina, for letting us know about this option!)
While I would like to see more of an effort on behalf of the event itself to prevent driving after it promotes drinking so heavily to its patrons, it is ultimately up to the individual. Seek out other forms of transportation if you will be drinking. Be smart about it and be safe.
*Featured/top image: Photo by Flickr user Luis Miguel Justino.