Bad Things Happen to Those that Sometimes Do Bad Things

As I looked for an attorney after getting out of jail, I was surprised to see how many lawyers took the angle of “well, bad things happen to good people.”  This was the same question I asked myself as a child.  I was fascinated by the idea of unfair things happening to generally good people.  Obviously, the idea quickly transforms into an ontological dissertation but that is neither here nor there.

But I suppose the lawyers advertise that bad things happen to good people do so because that is what someone with a fresh DUI wants to hear.  That is what I wanted to hear, at least temporarily.  After the ordeal they have just gone through, people want to hear that they are still good people, that they are still human.

As I have sat in reflection over the last few days, I’ve come to the realization that it isn’t that actually a proper response – a bad thing, i.e. my DUI, didn’t happen despite me being a good person. Whether or not I am a good person is wholly irrelevant to the DUI and its consequences.  The fact of the matter is that I did something bad, and as a result I am enduring the consequence of it.  A more apt slogan is, “bad things happen to those people who get caught committing a bad act.”

I also got to thinking about the reasoning behind having a criminal justice system – and why we punish people who have done wrong.  It comes down to three reasons:

  1. Rehabilitation of the offender;
  2. Deterring others who may want to commit the same act by making an example of the offender; and,
  3. Retribution for those who have suffered.

Rehabilitation

I read a blog post yesterday where this nice young lady argued that her DUI punishment seems rather severe, while also claiming that she would never drink and drive again. In that sense, the rehabilitation seems to have worked wonders.

Are the consequences of a DUI dire? Absolutely.  I haven’t myself come to grips with the impacts of a DUI conviction on my life.  But I too feel rehabilitated.  I too promise not to drink, and not to drink and drive. Therefore, rehabilitation seems to have worked.

Deterrent

According to MADD and NHTSA, more than 1/3rd of all drivers arrested or convicted of a DUI are repeat offenders. So NHTSA is correct in stating that, “[w]hile this indicates they are a significant problem, repeat offenders do not constitute the majority of the DWI problem in the U.S. Prevention of DWI in the first place and dealing effectively with first time DWI offenders is a rational approach to the problem.”  In other words, we need good deterrents.

How are the punishments and the lobbying by MADD working out? According to NHTSA, the number of drunk driving deaths has been cut in half since 1980, the same year MADD was founded. I get that correlation is not causation. I get that many of those deaths have been prevented because of safer cars, safer roads, and other efforts by people other than the DUI cops or MADD.  But if my punishment and punishment of those who are in my position have even the slightest of deterring effect on the DUI rates, then perhaps the system works.

Retribution

People with a DUI across the internet claim that the punishment was too harsh even though no one was hurt, no property was damaged and no one was killed.  Though you have to admit that it is by supreme luck that no one was hurt and nothing was damaged.

But the question remains…when nothing is damaged and no one is hurt, what is the retribution for?  Might I suggest that the retribution is for the harm we’ve done collectively to the society.  Because of people who do the same thing that I did, i.e. had alcohol and drove, the society the pays the price in terms of deaths, the need for DUI police officers, organizations like MADD, property damage and the pain of those who are left behind when someone dies in a DUI related accident.  Successful tax, insurance or administrative systems are based on generalizing people by categorizing them based on their attributes.  In this case, the attribute you, me, and other offenders have in common is that we all got drunk and drove.  And the punishment is the tax we pay – the punishment for the societal harm we’ve caused.  At least, that is the way I choose to look at it.  This is my retribution to the society.

It is also worth noting that these issues of the harshness of punishment come up only after someone has gotten a DUI.  All of us first time offenders agreed to play by the rules under which we are now charged.  As voters we know or should have known the implications of a DUI.  But we chose to drink and drive anyway.  When we didn’t have a DUI on our record, we screamed, “screw those people with a DUI! The punishment fits the crime!” by not taking any action democratically about the DUI laws.  But now that those laws we were complacent in enacting apply to us, they suddenly don’t befit the crime.  We make rules for others and exceptions for ourselves.

Other Related Thoughts

I think it’s interesting that most people who blog about a DUI experience feel that they did not belong in the jail for the night they spent there. I felt the same way. I felt that I, too, did not belong in jail. I was somehow different, somehow better than those around me. Perhaps this goes back to the DUI being an effective rehabilitation technique for those of us who had never been to a jail before.  We promised ourselves that we would never be back.

But my feeling about not belonging in jail changed when I saw my own mugshot. In that orange and white jumpsuit, I looked no different than anyone else there. I, too, was a criminal that night, just like all the other people in jail with me. And from here on out, all I can hope for is that I won’t be a criminal anymore.

“Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster… for when you gaze long into the abyss. The abyss gazes also into you.” – Neitzsche

Remorse and Repentance

Over the last few days, the remorse of having been arrested for a DUI has transformed into something darker: guilt.  I feel guilty as hell for having put myself in this situation.  It wasn’t anyone else’s fault but mine, and I am simply thankful that the consequences aren’t worse.  In my guilt-ridden state, all I seek is forgiveness.

  • First, I apologize to those that I shared the road with that night.  I played with your lives by letting my selfishness put you in danger. And no amount of apologies will ever make up for what I did.  While I can promise to you that I will NEVER drink and drive again, if I put myself in your shoes, I’d have no reason to believe in me either.
  • Second, I am apologetic for the way my actions have impacted those around me.  My girlfriend is currently suffering from a gallbladder infection.  While she was staying with me this past weekend, she suffered through unimaginable pain on the way to the ER.  I was a complete failure as a boyfriend — I could not legally drive her to the ER in the time of her need due to my actions leading to my license being suspended for any reason other than business-only.  Since she lives 150 miles away from me and is having her gallbladder removed this upcoming weekend, it remains to be seen how I will visit her in the time of her need again. Had it not been for my drinking and driving, I could have been and would have been a better person for those around me.
  • Thirdly, I am apologetic to those who were raised with me, whether in school or at work.  You have come to expect a lot out of me.  And my actions affect you.  You are all good people. And I am eternally sorry to have disappointed you.
  • Finally, I am apologetic to my parents.  They are immigrants who fought tooth and nail to make ends meet to send their son to school.  They escaped a failing third-world country so that their son could live the American Dream.  I have failed them miserably.  It feels awful that they invested their live savings in legal fees just so that they and their children could migrate to America legally — and for what? For their son to commit an illegal and immoral act?  Shame on me.

My girlfriend has been supremely supportive of me.  She bailed me out.  She made me believe, if only for a minute, that things will be okay eventually — that I made a horrible decision but she loves me nonetheless.  But something has changed in her.  During one of our last fights, she blurted out the following: “I had come to expect perfection from you. And you’ve let me down” in reference to my DUI.  She isn’t wrong.  This is the non-financial consequence of my actions.

Believe me when I tell you — you cannot afford a DUI.  Emotionally, it leaves you in a state where you have a hard time seeking forgiveness from those who you have affected, those you love the most, and the one person you see in the mirror everyday.

Remorse comes easy.  Repentance after a DUI, though, is a life-long process.  And hopefully during this process, I can make those around me proud once again.

xx

The prosecutor officially filed the charges against me today.  What does this mean?  That probable cause exists that I was driving under the influence.  The case in the criminal court thus moves forward towards arraignment and ultimately adjudication.   Semi-related, the DMV hearing is not for another dozen days.  What a shameful 4th of July it shall be for me.

I don’t say this lightly.  Today was the worst I’ve felt since the night in jail. But a small price to pay for my actions, and well-deserved.

First Post: My Motivation

On June 6th, 2015 I received a citation for a DUI.  I was arrested.  Since that night in jail, I have been thinking about starting this blog.  My goal is simple: to ensure that this never happens again — not just that I do not drink and drive; rather, that I do not drink at all.  And I wondered whether writing to myself, and maybe those in my position, would help me in rehabilitating myself and becoming a better member of the society someday.  I am now 5 days sober, and hopefully if I live a long and productive life, that number of days counter will be much higher.

My Motivation

While goals and ambitions are great in theory, there is something to be said about the motivation behind having goals.  My motivation is simple: I put myself in a position where I could have seriously, or worse, fatally, injured someone else.  And that just is not something that I can ever — ever — do again.  Therefore, my goal is to never drink again.

I have always lived by the idea that your freedom extends to the line in the sand where you could potentially hurt another person.  Things beyond those line are morally reprehensible, and in many situations they are criminal.  I crossed that line.  Thankfully for me, I did not injure anyone.  Perhaps I got lucky — and more than myself, my potential would-have-been victim got lucky.  Just typing these words scares me.  I could have been a statistic.  And worse, my victim could have been a far — far — more unfortunate statistic.

Having crossed that line, I am now paying a price for it.  I am both morally reprehensible and perhaps criminally responsible for my actions.  And while the price appears steep, I’d argue it isn’t.  My actions had the potential to seriously injure another person.  And I get to walk away from it with fines, attorney fees, a huge career set back, and the lingering stigma of being a potential convict.  But it could have been far worse — I could have walked into a prison long term as a person who committed manslaughter.

So much to say this — my motivation is clear: do not ever cross the line which puts me in the position where there are potential victims of my actions.  That is not how my parents raised me.  That is not how my loved ones view me.  And that is certainly not what the society expects from a person.  Therefore, I shall never drink again, and I sure as hell will not drink and drive again.

While I am not religious, I am choosing to end this post with a verse: “If anyone slays a person, it would be as if he slew all of humanity; and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of all of humanity.”  My motivation is to be a contributing member to humanity and slay my demons instead.