DRUNK, BROKE: DUI program preps for big growth spurt

November 15, 2008
It doesn't take much alcohol to attract the unwelcome attention of the law.

It doesn't take much alcohol to attract the unwelcome attention of the law.

By DANIEL BLACKBURN

PART ONE: Gold in the pockets of boozing drivers

While law enforcement prepares the handcuffs, officials are predicting arrests in this county for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol will set new records this holiday season.

And as a direct consequence, local health professionals will see double-digit percentage increases in revenue wrested from imbibing vehicle operators.

Even one for the road can leave a costly aftertaste these days.

Catching and curing such impaired drivers is big business in California, and San Luis Obispo County is no exception. In fact, health officials here are making plans to accommodate more offenders soon, in even more facilities.

How big is the DUI business? A first-time charge of DUI can cost an individual thousands of dollars to defend; a conviction will total at least $10,000, and probably a lot more. After that first offense, the sky’s the limit, both in financial costs and escalating jail or prison time.

So, should you become part of this county’s ever-growing, on-the-road-while-under-the-influence brigade, you can find solace in your immeasurable contribution to a growing industry – court-mandated drug and alcohol diversion programs. In this county, a judge will likely order a convicted drunk driver into counseling as part of sentencing conditions. This fee-based service is meant to help petty drug and alcohol offenders avoid incarceration. And around here, violators will be directed to the SLO County Public Health Department’s Drug and Alcohol Services.

That isn’t the cakewalk it might seem. Counseling classes, according to some of the program’s so-called “clients,” can be the most trying part of the whole ordeal.

Participation in the program won’t be cheap, either; the self-supporting special revenue DUI fund center has an annual operating budget of about $1.5 million, and officials claim 97 percent of that is paid by program participants. This is one of the few counties in California to operate such a program. While its budget total has remained relatively steady over the past several years, county officials expect the program’s rolls to swell by 10 percent this fiscal year.

And DAS gross revenues should be increasing proportionally. To fund this county’s program, for example, those convicted of a “wet and reckless” charge (driving with a blood alcohol content of less than .08) or young adult first offender will pay about $300 for six 2-hour classes and attend five Alcoholics Anonymous or self-help meetings. An adult first offender will pay $656 and attend twice the number of classes; and repeat offenders will be charged more than $2,000 for an intensive program lasting 26 weeks.

“The increase in revenue is primarily due to increased client visits in the ‘Second Chance’ program,” wrote County Administrator David Edge in his budget report to supervisors last summer.

These are people with two or more DUI convictions, and their numbers are swelling because of increasing law enforcement, according data produced by the county’s Substance Abuse Policy Committee. San Luis Obispo County has a statewide reputation for being tough on drinking drivers, ranking consistently higher in arrest numbers than the California average.

The county’s DUI program is limited to about 2,600 annual adult participants, and 3,400 youthful offenders. It is administered by a staff of 14, nine of whom are classified as drug and alcohol specialists. There are branches in four county locales: San Luis Obispo, Paso Robles, Atascadero, and Arroyo Grande. Nipomo is being considered as a fifth site, thanks to the anticipated hike in DUI arrest revenue.

Specialists conduct educational classes and earn $3,330 to $5,600 monthly. And to their “clients,” they are, for the duration of classes, the most important and powerful individuals in the world.

NEXT: What happens when counselors offend the offenders?


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Stefan

By: Joe on 11/18/08

Lets see some stats from AA…… ?? Got any?

By: AlcoholicsAnonymous on 11/18/08

To Norske.

I'm not aware of a program that has a greater rate of success than that accomplished through the wisdom of the AA 12 step program . There are many who might have equal success at a high $$ cost but there are none that have a higher success rate or any less recidivism than the AA twelve step program does. In fact all programs that I'm aware of incorporate a 12 step program that has been patterned around the AA philosophy as founded by Bill and documented in the "Big Book". Would you please post the programs that you refer to and the costs of those programs and the relation to relapse/recidivism ratios?.

This information would be of great value to all who seek a better way.

By: Norske on 11/18/08

Again, just don't drink and drive. It is not worth it.

And AA is not as successful as some here would have you believe. It works for some and that is good, but there are more successful programs with lower recidivism rates out and about.

By: Joe on 11/18/08

Multiple postings by the same people??


I think you need to loosen up your tin-foil hat you paranoid freaks, the thinking thingy on your shoulders is getting a bit oxygen starved.


As we all found, someone was posting here, from a PR city computer in regards to a 'police action' regarding an automotive professional…. I'll leave the specifics out… but


No matter HOW anonymous you THINK you are, all it takes is someone looking behind all the 'pretty' code of the site, and it sounds like they do, I do it all the time, it's part of trending and accounting for your web traffic, when you get an IP signed on that isn't 'normal' you look it up out of curiosity.


You are accessing public information, publicly.


Your "hotmail" and "gmail" accounts still have to have the tags from your ISP, Your ISP can tell who had what address, even with DHCP you still have to have SMTP, it's no mystery, their is a 'paper' trail right back to you.

By: Jordan on 11/18/08

Is anyone here thinking what I'm thinking? It would appear that Bluebird has "picked off" people who know too much about "some" DAS counselors.


Stefan

By: hotdog on 11/17/08

As pointed out twice already why isn't there a simple test drinkers can perform to see if they are impaired or over the limit? How are we supposed to know? Let's get real, people will drink a bit. I don't know if two drinks should bring such penalties when many folks put on their makeup, read the paper and do other stuff that impairs their ability to react to driving issues.

By: Vagabond on 11/17/08

Looks like a big opportunity to me.

How about starting a mobile Valet & Taxi service conveniently located right up the street from a checkpoint?

Big sign on the road with arrows, win-win no DUI and the american "Yes we can" spirit.


Or is is just about punishing people and making money.

By: Countdown on 11/17/08

To a large extent the current system does appear to be broken. But a lot o the talks about excuses for DUI or how it affects people differently are hog wash. Just don't DUI equals no problem.

By: BobMclemon on 11/16/08

I don't think that AA is all that successful. Norske makes a lot of sense and he has no stake in any of this.

It seems like the program needs fixing though. It would be a good idea to have more and better options than AA and a better run DAS.

Then again, just don't drink and drive.

By: MartinW on 11/16/08

I'm just wondering if I have this right. David Edge says: “The increase in revenue is primarily due to increased client visits in the ‘Second Chance’ program,” This doesn't sound like his $656.00 MANDATORY DAS FIRST TIME OFFENDER PROGRAM IS WORKING VERY WELL! How come we didn't have all these 2nd DUI offenders when 20 AA meetings were the required prerequisite to avoid jail time? It would appear that maybe the only problem with AA is that its free. Also "This fee-based service is meant to help petty drug and alcohol offenders avoid incarceration." What kind of spin is that? It sounds like whats really going on is that people either get extorted and forced into a useless program that doesn't work and pay salaries to incompetent county cronies or go to jail. Of course they are "knocking" AA which is a program that works. How else are they going to justify expanding the DAS department?

By: Jordan on 11/16/08

Gee Michelle,

Would you say that David is going to be a bit on edge? LOL

By: Michelle on 11/16/08

Oh Brother,

Just wait until DAS, David, and the DA see this tomorrow morning.

By: Jordan on 11/16/08

BTW Great Photo Dan. I've never heard of Gilbey's Gin. It must be very cheap or really expensive. Which is it and which one of you drank 9 tenths of the bottle?

Glad to see the keys on the table(grin).


Stefan

By: Jordan on 11/16/08

I'm going to weigh in here.

The DUI laws and consequences for a first time offender are way too severe. The reason it's so severe is because too many agencies "want a piece of the action". Its all about revenues in the coffers. I don't believe people are drunk on two drinks and that they shouldn't be allowed to drive. The fact is that for some people who I've seen posting here its clear that they can't relate to a .08 BAC. For them its a 4.0 or nothing. Alcoholics are the last people who should be administering the drug and alcohol service systems or making any decisions about alcohol related issues apart from how to keep themselves safe and sober.

By: BobMclemon on 11/16/08

Some of these responses are unbelievable. Really.

The system may be broken and need fixing. Some counselors may not be qualified and do more harm than good. Who knows? It will be good to see what comes out in the next article.

But none of that makes it alright to drive impaired no matter how one words it.

It is simple. If you decide to drink and drive be prepared to kill someone or to be arrested.

People will always drink. Responsible people will always do the right thing and arrange transportation if they have been drinking. These excuses are pitiful.

By: ThomasPaine on 11/16/08

I beg to differ. All of the rationalizations in the world do not excuses DUI. The consequences are not nearly severe enough IMHO.

The consequences of DUI involving death and injury far out weigh any inconvenience those who DUI face. You have been lucky so far. I hope that I am not on the road when you feel the need to drink and drive. Denial isn't just a river in Egypt.

By: Laura on 11/16/08

People are going to drink and drive just like teenagers are going to have sex. Preaching abstention isn't even a reasonable expectation or solution. Adults socialize and a couple of drinks is actually customary and even romanticized. People have to get home after social engagements and many people don't know that they are DUI. They have been doing it for many years safely and without incident. I've often done it myself and most of us have.

Its just a fact of life that people are going to drink and drive and LE knows it. The consequences are too strict for first time offenders who have had a couple of drinks. There is nothing constructive going on with these DUI consequences except creating bigger gov and a money machine to pay them.

By: ThomasPaine on 11/16/08

Laura, with all due respect what is really scary is that you may believe a lot of the nonsence you are spewing.

BTW, what makes you think Norske is in LE?

I believe he is or was a therapist a N.P. and a one time paramedic if I am not mistaken.

By: Laura on 11/16/08

Norske says

"My personal beliefs of civil liberties is out weighed by the need of society to protect itself from DUI."

WOW! Scary stuff, this person shouldn't be in LE.


Stefan

By: ThomasPaine on 11/16/08

With all due respect, the DUI law is not flawed, however the system involved with treating DUI's may be flawed.

Personally, I would like to see more stringent laws and if one is not involved in a DUI, then they won't have to be part of the flawed system in the first place. Think of the hassles and large fines as a deterrent which could all be avoided by not drinking and driving.

By: Rany on 11/16/08

I can't believe what I'm reading. I've never heard of the police breaking into someones home because they think someone might be drunk inside. How "dangerously" drunk could they be if they were seen driving and got home OK (if they are even intoxicated at all)?

This has got to be a joke? Are they lost in space.. "DANGER DANGER WILL ROBINSON"? I'd draw down my 401K and legally take them and the city they worked for to the cleaners.


By: Laura on 11/16/08

To ThomasPaine,

This is about the county and LE taking advantage of a "flawed" law. Its about violating the rights of citizens while charging excessive fines and lining everybody's pockets under the guise of public safety.

By: ThomasPaine on 11/16/08

It sure sounds like a lot of people with a lot of excuses to drink and drive. Rather than just not drink and drive, they would rather blame MADD, faulty labs, over zealous LE, high fines, and the inconvenience of being arrested for DUI than drinking itself.

What is so important about being able to drive with any amount of alcohol vs the safety of all of us in the commons?

Stop making all of these excuses and poor anecdotes and weak analogies in a effort to support your misguided attempt at justifying DUI. Just don't drink and drive. Simple

By: mcdonald on 11/16/08

Rany,

Yes its true. I have this from an informed source. Its even worse than that. There was a person charged with DUI who was positive that he wasn't so he had his blood retested at a different lab. It came back above .08% from that lab too except there was big problem. The guy knew for a 100% fact that he wasn't possibly a .08 BAC. So he spent more money and went to the lab and asked them to draw his blood and confirm that the sample they were testing from was his blood. It wasn't!

By: Rany on 11/16/08

What in the hell is this about the county BAC testing? Is this more county corruption? I never heard of a contract to provide public services that doesn't expire and have to be put out for bid at regular intervals. Whats even worse is if it's true that 90% of the blood test are flawed and at least a point lower than the reported results. Many people receive a DUI for .08 or .09 ! If this is all true it needs to be investigated. Seriously.


Stefan

By: Norske on 11/16/08

Try again on my computer.

99.9% of .08 DUI's don't cause accidents, really?

Water bottles screaming kids etc., sounds like more false equivalency lapsing into cognitive dissonance in a weak attempt at rationalization comparing DUI with other serious causes of accidents. One does not reduce or minimze the other.

I don't care why a DUI is stopped. If they are behind the wheel DUI then so be it.

My personal beliefs of civil liberties is out weighed by the need of society to protect itself from DUI.

Simple, don't drive under the influence,… at all.

By: Laura on 11/16/08

The DUI laws are too strict and out of line for a first time offense. I have several professional friends who have received DUI's. Not a single one of them was stopped because of their driving. One had a flat tire, one was stopped at a check point and one had someone with an ax to grind who called the police and followed them after they were seen drinking in a restaurant. The police noted that the person wasn't stopped for erratic driving but because of a phone call. One had three drinks in a period of 3 1/2 hours and was a .10. The others were .08 + .09 on two drinks. There lives were devastated in one way or another as a result of the unreasonable laws. These are all upstanding intelligent responsible citizens. None of them have ever been charged with a criminal act or had an accident and didn't consume any more alcohol on these occasions than they ever do when they are out on social occasions. I can honestly say that I've never seen them drunk or staggering or unable to drive safely. I believe that this is all about a nasty group of people called MADD. Yes people have lost children and terrible accidents happen. Thats no reason to become obsessive and blame the whole world and everyone who has a couple of drinks. Its also all about the money. I agree with Cindy. If LE is serious about stopping citizens from driving under what they call the influence then do something constructive and provide public breathalysers. The difference of so called DUI can be how much a person ate, how long they wait between drinks, how much muscle they have, etc. Its all a big guessing game thats supports a big money game.

By: CarolAnnRiley on 11/16/08

To Norske,

Spoken like a true alcoholic.

The fact is that 99.9% of .08 DUI's don't result in an accident and the majority of serious accidents are caused by things like "water bottles", excessive speeds, cell phones, hamburgers, screaming kids, putting in a CD,looking at the car next to you, or just DWHUA (driving with head up a–). Most people aren't drunk on two drinks and therefor aren't "drunk drivers". Most people who socialize will have two drinks. Only 10% of people who drink socially are alcoholics.

I agree that AA doesn't seem to work for most alcoholics. It's also clear that it's better than what the county is doing right now.

By: Norske on 11/16/08

Unfortunately AA is a flawed program although there are more successful programs available. Government has bought the meme of AA being the be all and end all of therapeutic modalities for so long that it is unfortunately the de facto Tx option for most counties.

Breathalyzers are not a bad idea and they have been pushed with varying degrees of success over the past 20 years.

As for the costs of the DUI programs, don't receive a DUI and they will be irrelevant.

It would be a good thing if they were more effective however.

The first DUI should be taken very seriously IMHO and should include jail time and high fee's. The 2nd DUI and the person should lose all driving privileges for an extended amount of time and increased jail and financial penalties.

The loss of freedom and the cost of fines to those who have a DUI pales in comparison to the tragedy caused by DUI.

More prophylactic resources would be a good start also.

Just don't drink and drive.


Stefan

By: Cindy on 11/16/08

If LE really want to help to stop DUI then they should put a public breathalyser in every establishment that serves alcohol. Most people don't know that they are at .08 BAC. It's very easy to feel legally sober. Now this would be a reasonable approach to the problem. I'm sure DUI arrests would go way down. As for the cost why not rather than send people to these foolish classes do what other counties do and send them to AA meetings. Save the people the "wasted" $636.00 and charge them something reasonable to cover the cost of the breathalyser equipment and sterile packaged mouth pieces. Of course I don't see this ever happening,the idea is too intelligent and DUI is too big of a money machine.

By: Norske on 11/16/08

Incredible, reading these comments is just like listening to the pathetic excuses spouted by those taking DUI classes. SLO DOC is absolutely correct on this one.

.08 is absolutely enough to cause impairment. And using false equivalencies to justify drinking while driving is a sad desperate attempt at nullifying irresponsibly behavior IMO.

Many DUI counselors are licensed, as was I.

Unfortunately the system in this county is in such a sad state that it would require a complete restructure to make it a viable program.

Not every person who has a DUI is an alcoholic, but every person who has a DUI has put the rest of society at grave risk.

I have arrived on scene at more DUI accidents than I care think about and the utter destruction and innocent loss of life is absolutely horrendous.

Driving better after two cocktails, in your dreams. There are a lot of problems with the current DUI system, none of which justify driving with a BAC of .08 or above.

By: MartinW on 11/16/08

I don't know who came up with the idea that citizens have to attend these classes but I think the people should take a stand against it. Alcoholics Anonymous meetings are what is usually required in all other counties and states. Whats going on in SLO is that the people are being forced to attend an inordinate array of classes that are run by people who aren't qualified emotionally, psychologically ,academically or even socially all for the purpose of creating jobs and paying salaries to those who couldn't otherwise be employed for more than minimum wage. It really shouldn't be acceptable and it won't change without a public outcry. The majority of citizens charged with DUI had one too many drinks and are upstanding neighbors. I also agree that cell phones and "water bottles" cause more accidents and are a greater danger than someone who is a .08 . No one should have to listen to a bunch of self righteous power freak alcoholics tell them that they are an alcoholic too and pay near $700.00 for the foolishness. I listened to it for years from my neighbor. At least I got it for free and could throw them off my property when I had enough.

By: mcdonald on 11/16/08

There is something else about all this that I hope CCN looks into. Its the person who does the BAC testing for the county. Sandy Rakeshaw has a contract that has never gone out for bid. As long as the DA is happy with her and she always says that she did everything perfect then she keeps her contract with no challengers for the job. Her lab is seriously flawed and 90% of the people who have their blood retested by a reputable lab come back with 1 and even 2 points lower. If you were close to a .08 and had a blood test get it retested. This is big business for the county, they want you to be DUI even at a .07.

By: Cindy on 11/16/08

Newsome,

I get your point. Remember Gossens who slammed 4 cars and totaled his truck? He was reaching for his water bottle but then he was a cop.

I think whatever brings in the most $$ is considered the top priority. Its all about growing the government. We need more DUI's so we can hire more police to set up more check points to look for more DUI's. How else are they going to catch someone that is driving as well as the next guy?


Stefan

By: Newsome on 11/16/08

SLO_DOC,


Choosing to apply makeup, spank your kids, send a text message and eat your bagel are all choices people make that undermine their ability to drive attentively.


Since cell phone use has been proven more disabling than alcohol use, shouldn't the penalty be stiffer than $20?


I hope CCN will look into my earlier query about where on the scale of penalties a DUI fits in comparison to other crimes.


By: Cindy on 11/16/08

Laura,

If what your saying is true then this is completely out of control. I knew about the politics of people "dropping a dime" on the person sitting outside the Carlton Hotel with a glass of wine but the rest of what your saying is unbelievable and an outrage. This is what 8 years of Bush has done to the rights of citizens. This is way beyond DUI concerns. This is about police abusing their powers and courts allowing them to get away with it. Everyone of those convictions should be over turned. It doesn't even have anything to do with DUI when it gets to that level.

By: Laura on 11/16/08

Watch out Carol Ann..

An Attorney recently told me that a common way for a person to get stopped is for someone to simply call the police and tell them that they saw you drinking. The police can pull you over on a "tip" even if your driving is impeccable. People involved in politics do it to their adversaries all the time. Trust me on that one because I know. What I didn't know is how common it was. I was also told that something new has been going on in SLO County over the last few years. The police don't have to catch you driving to arrest you for DUI. People have actually been dragged out of their beds and arrested! Thats right. Apparently if someone calls the police and say they see someone driving who they think is drunk and the police can't catch up with them on the road the police have gone to the persons house. If the person answers the door the police will ask the person to step outside. If the person is legally intoxicated they will arrest them for "drunk in public". If the person doesn't answer the police will come up with the idea that maybe someone is very drunk and in possible danger to themselves so they actually come into the house "under the guise" of seeing if your OK. If the person is smart they'll make sure to let the cops know that they drank after they got home and never step outside your door if you've had too much to drink. You don't have to. SLO County is one of the only places where these "tactics" have been employed. Its a complete violation of the rights of citizens. There is a group looking into stopping all this but it takes time.

By: Use_it_or_Lose_it on 11/16/08

Drug and alcohol counselers are not professional counselors and are not licensed by any state agency, don't require any real formal education, and obviously don't have a screening process. Therefore, these counselors tend to be fairly problematic as they themselves are untreated, just stopped drinking (maybe). They don't generally know what professional boundaries are, have limited world view to draw upon but are ignorant of that, don't know how to work with other treating professionals (the real ones), and are basically well-paid babysitters. Those people who are "helped" by these guys do so in spite of them, not because of them.


All that said, there is no doubt that working with abusers of substances (vs an arrest without dependency and abuse) is very difficult and often impossible until the abuser of substances is ready for change. Even then, relapse is part of the process.


I think the current system of having the fox supervise the chickens is mind bogglingly stupid.


Stefan

By: Cindy on 11/16/08

Gee Martin, was your neighbors initials S.M.?

What Martin is saying is actually true. I know this because I actually met a woman in a similar situation when I first moved to Atascadero. I considered her a friend for a short time and still consider her X-husband and children friends. The county was paying for her to go to school to be a "Drug and Alcohol Counselor" for SLO County. If I recall it was somewhere around a one year course. The county had already paid once before for her to go to school but she started drinking and automatically failed the course. During the time that I knew her she started drinking and using drugs too so she failed her course a second time (one month short of graduating and getting a job counseling). She ended up with a probation officer coming to her house to urine test her and was always in trouble and in one program or another, all on our tax dollars. I think they tried sending her to school a third time. Her X-husband recently told me that she has never been able to get a job even when she stops drinking for months at a time. Alcohol and drug counseling was her only chance at a job because she had been arrested so many times for drug and alcohol intoxication that no one else would hire her. Sad story but true.

By: MartinW on 11/16/08

I was laughing to myself about Dan's lead into part 2 of this saga."NEXT: What happens when counselors offend the offenders?"

I've heard all about the alcoholics and drug addicts that teach those DUI classes and even knew one. What people don't understand is that these "counselors" are the "real thing". REAL meaning "real alcoholics and drug addicts". 95% of those counselors got themselves into a whole lot of trouble and ended up in the system on the wrong end of the stick. After a few arrests and 5 maybe 10 times in jail they eventually stopped their self destructive behaviors. In most cases the county paid for them to go to school (a one year course) to become drug and alcohol counselors. These people end up with these jobs because the county wants them off welfare and they can't get a job anywhere else with their previous records. I bet you didn't know that serious alcoholics and drug addicts get welfare (for being a constant public nuisance) if they get into a program . I had a neighbor who became a counselor for drug and alcohol services. She was an offensive neighbor who stopped drinking and went around preaching to everyone after she had put us all through years of her public obnoxious intoxication. Her mouth never stopped, either she was falling on her a– drunk and using fowl language or she was preaching about the alcohol at barbeque's and warning our guest not to drive home (even the ones that didn't drink)! Her husband left her and she moved thank God. She relapsed after she had finished her schooling and became a counselor. She said the counseling kept her sober and I can just imagine what she put those poor citizens through. She was counseling and secretly drinking! But heck- This is SLO County and anything can happen here. Even forcing citizens to pay $636.00 to help pay for the cost of schooling and jobs for alcoholics and drug addicts. Don't have that 2nd drink and drive, you'll get soaked and harassed beyond reason.

By: mcdonald on 11/16/08

Watch out for those check points Carol Ann. They have them to catch people who can drive after 2 cocktails. They have to pay for all the county and city employees that the cronies support.

By: CarolAnnRiley on 11/16/08

I have to disagree with SLO DOC. I've been more impaired after a 5 hour drive than I've ever been on two cocktails. I've often drove after 2 cocktails and actually drive better because I don't want to get stopped.

By: SLO_DOC on 11/16/08

Do some of you people ever do enough reading to back up what you say? Nancy, thank God you are not in charge of the system. As far as BAC (blood alcohol concentration) goes, most people are ABSOLUTELY impaired at 80 mg/dl. This has been shown in many studies time and again. You mention a 'first time DUI' and 'a reasonable BAC'?? 'Reasonable'? Are you joking?? If you don't like the laws the way they are, TOO BAD. You should try NOT driving if you have had more than 1 drink…..period. It's that simple.


Stefan

By: Nancy on 11/16/08

Its true that it only takes one too many ounces of alcohol to be a DUI. It's become "big money" and everyone is jumping in on the band wagon. The DMV also takes their cut. The insurance companies make out on DUI big time. All because of 1 extra oz of alcohol. The limit used to be a .10 and many people don't reach a .10 on two drinks but most reach a .08 after 2 drinks easily. A .08 isn't drunk and driving is seldom detectably impaired at that level. Of course when the county wants some $$ they just violate everyones civil rights by setting up check points. By the way, check points are no longer legal in Oregon because it is a violation of our civil rights. The cost of the DUI classes is ridiculous. DUI laws are way too strict and its time for the citizens to demand that the laws are restructured. A first time DUI over a traffic stop with a reasonable BAC should be treated like a traffic ticket. There is a difference between drunk drivers killing people and someone that had two drinks.

By: Joe on 11/15/08

Maybe the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance will help defray the costs?

By: Countdown on 11/15/08

There is a lot of truth in what you say hotdog, but far too many innocent people get killed by drunk drivers in this country every year.

It is true that not all who get a DUI and rightly so, are alcoholics who benefit from treatment. With the current DUI treatment options in this county I am not sure many benefit anyway.

It is simple, if you have more than 1 drink, don't drive.

By: hotdog on 11/15/08

Gee, what about first time offender white collar criminals that steal millions-and who, though known to be guilty, are still walking free?

It is very possible to have a glass or wine or two and get caught up in the DUI saga without being a neglectful, drunken fool. I really hate drunk drivers but there are many who slightly exceed the arbitrary percentage limits that do not pose a danger to the public. For one I admit to having been lucky many times in the past not getting stopped when I had been lightly drinking-who among you can deny the same? The draconian laws about all this certainly make most folks take way more care with drinking and driving, and that is good. But I feel for those at the low end of things that get caught up in the mania to keep the drunks off the road. I don't feel many make a choice to break the law, they have a social drink or two and then have to get home. The ones who are blind drunk can't make any decisions, they are too out of it.

What we need is a simple device/test to use before we drive, if it indicates we exceed the limit then we can make that choice, one way or the other.

By: Newsome on 11/15/08

Nearly all laws are broken by choice, whether they harm others or not. Is the average penalty for non-injury DUI greater than meth-induced theft? How about tweaker strong-arm robbery? On a continuum of penalties, where does DUI fall in relation to other crimes?

By: SLO_DOC on 11/15/08

Excellent!! It is absolutely a compliment to the county as well as law enforcement that SLO is 'tough on drinking drivers'. This is an issue where people are making a CHOICE to break the law and endanger others lives. For that poor choice, they should suffer the severest of penalties.

By: Booty_Juice on 11/15/08

SLO County – come on vacation, leave on probation!