There are many reasons, both good and bad, to drink until you drop, and then drink some more. Alcohol is one of the many escapes our society deems legal and acceptable, so it’s also easily abused. Kegs, twelve packs, vodka, rum and coke, Long Island Iced Teas, saki bombs, margarita Mondays and happy hour, keep college students sane, but sometimes the consequences of drinking can be devastating to a student’s college life and future career because of a DUI conviction.
Many law-abiding students can find themselves in legal entanglements because they drove home completely wasted and were arrested for driving under the influence.
Spokesperson for the CSUN Public Safety Department, Christina Villalobos said Cal State Northridge police charged 12 students and 40 non-students with DUIs in 2005-06. And a majority of these arrests were committed on streets near campus.
The California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs reported that the highest percentage were drivers age 21 to 24 with blood alcohol concentration levels of .08 percent or higher in 2004.
In the fiscal year of 2004-05, more than 180,000 licenses were suspended in California, the ADP reports.
People falsely believe that if you have a blood alcohol content of less than .08 percent, you will not receive a ticket, but the Automobile Club of Southern California reports differently. If an officer sees evidence of impairment, including erratic driving and delayed response time, people can be charged and convicted with a DUI, even with minimal amounts of alcohol or prescription drugs in their system.
AAA reports show that depending on the severity of the case, a DUI can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. A misdemeanor charge can be made if no one is injured, like being pulled over or an accident where only the impaired driver was involved. A felony charge can be made if an incident involves a multiple-car collision and at least one injured person.
AAA also reports that California has a reputation of serious enforcement and convictions for DUIs. MADD gave California a high grade of a B+ on its 2002 report card for combating drinking and driving, and underage drinking.
The consequences from a DUI conviction include loss of driving privileges, jail time, fines, fees and state-imposed education, www.findlaw.com, an online resource for legal information shows. With such severe penalties for DUI convictions, the decline in crashes involving drunk-driving have been significant. From 1998 to 2004, fatalities that involved alcohol have dropped by more than 57 percent, a report by the Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs reveals.
Nick Palomino, a freshman, said he believes DUIs are prevalent on college campuses, especially for underage drivers. After seeing an underage friend recently convicted of a DUI face the possibility losing his license for two years, he said, “I don’t want to go through that. It was an example for me.”
Corey Tessier said he feels similarly about people he knows who have been arrested for a DUI.
“I feel that all actions have consequences. It seems to happen more often than you think. I try to intervene, but people make their own decisions,” Tessier said.
A person can be charged with a DUI even if they refuse to take a breath or blood test and can expect more severe punishment. The consequences include longer jail time and no option for probation rather than jail for the full term.
In a first offense DUI arrest, a person is charged with two counts, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and driving while having a .08 percent or higher blood alcohol content, or “per se,” the AAA reports. These charges can be considered aggravated if the person who is arrested has a BAC of more than .15 percent. The charges are both criminal and civil, involving the court system and the Department of Motor Vehicles.
The court has some freedom in convicting someone for a DUI offense, and there are recommendations judges can use as guidelines in doing so, the Family Legal Guide of the American Bar Association reported. If a person is charged with a misdemeanor DUI, the person will typically plead guilty to one of the charges and be sentenced within the same day. In the event of unusual circumstances or aggravated charges, defendants will have to return to court to prove their case or have their attorney work out a plea agreement with the district attorney on the case.
The Klotz Student Health Center is currently revamping their drug and alcohol treatment and referral program, which was previously called ALERT. Health Educator Sharon Aronoff said counseling and referrals are offered and CSUN’s Public Safety Department offers presentations to help prevent and educate students about alcohol abuse.
In an article on www.findlaw.com, Donald Ramsell reported that there are at least 40 possible ways to beat a DUI charge.
A few of these are to claim that other internal substances, such as cough drops, paints, nail polish and asthma spray can cause a false Breathalyzer reading. And that “weaving inside the lanes is not illegal.”