Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Bill could prohibit offenders from taking DUI classes online

This first published March 3 2009 in the Henderson Home News website, a Community Newspapers of Nevada publication.

I received a call from Sandy Heverly of Stop DUI asking if I had a copy of a column I had written in 2004 about a DUI Victim Impact Panel I had attended with my then-16-year-old son, Sean.

She is preparing to testify next week on AB 209 before the Committee on Judiciary at the Nevada Legislature.

Apparently NRS 484.3797 allows DUI schools or Victim Impact Panels via the Internet. This bill would reverse that.

The law as it stands is a travesty to me, because it removes the human tragedy and strips the human face off the victim by allowing offenders to escape facing victims in person and sober.

During a telephone conversation, Assemblyman Mark Manendo, D-Las Vegas, described a scenario to me of the offender sitting home on a Saturday afternoon watching a ball game, sucking down a few brews then losing interest in the game. What to do now? Uh, maybe I'll get DUI School out of the way. So he sits down with a six-pack in his belly to complete his court-ordered class.

Manendo is spot on. DUI offenders should never, never have the opportunity to self-medicate before experiencing a life-changing event such as the Stop DUI Victim Impact Panel. If offenders have an ounce of humanity in their flesh, they will be changed by the panel, even if it is only temporary.

I foresee a bit of challenge to the simple changes in this law, because there is money to be made by Internet companies. Follow the money on this bill or the lobbyist for that matter. A quick visit to the Nevada DMV Web site, dmvnv.com/dlschoolsdui.htm, reveals a boatload of companies that may have something at stake, including the City of Las Vegas Municipal Court, operates it own online classes at www.lasvegasduischool.com and advertises it is the "Exclusive Provider of DUI School for the Las Vegas Municipal Court!"

The Web site also reads, "Following your registration, you study the course materials online and then answer the quiz questions. There is no need to attend a boring class, listen to long lectures or watch repetitive videos. Study at your leisure, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week."

Can you imagine this? "Honey, would you stop and grab me a 12-pack for when I sit down to attend my DUI School on the computer?"

The in-person Victim Impact Panel just cannot be given justice that way. To see why, I want to share with you the column Heverly was asking about, originally published June 24, 2004.

Stop DUI rarely leaves a dry eye

"Do you know what this is?" the speaker asked.

"A body bag," someone answered from the audience of 276 driving under the influence offenders.

"That's right, but not for me, Bobby Kintzel," the speaker added. It wasn't for him even after being hit by a sports utility vehicle speeding at 95 mph.

Former Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Robert "Bobby" Kintzel was laying down spike strips on the U.S. 95 to stop a fleeing suspect when he became the target of the suspect he was trying to stop.

Holding up a lesser-sized bag, Kintzel continued his lesson.

"This is a smaller bag for smaller (body) parts and if there is anything left that is unidentifiable, it goes in this," he said. "This is a biohazard bag, but not for me. I am still here."

The ex-trooper doesn't remember anything about the day he died, except what he reads in police reports and what people tell him.

Yes, he did die. Kintzel's life ended that day as far as he is concerned.

He was reborn after lying unresponsive in the intensive care unit for weeks. After nearly three years of rehabilitation, he returned to work in a civilian capacity last February.

In this capacity, the former Marine has declared war against drunken drivers.

"I am in a war, and if you drink and get behind the wheel, you are the enemy," he said.

Kintzel is not against drinking. In fact he candidly talks about popping a beer while sitting down to watch a baseball game on television that was rained out. He had just taken a sip, just a sip.

The game was off and so he thought a movie would be nice. Asking his wife to take him to the video store, she was too busy.

Did he get behind the wheel? Absolutely not.

This man is hero material.

Kintzel was one of three speakers at the monthly STOP DUI Victims Impact Panel at the Flamingo Library in Las Vegas. The panelists each discussed their gut-wrenching experiences. However, as an observer to the court-ordered panel, I was struck by other observations.

I was invited by Sandy Heverly, executive director of Stop DUI, to attend the Victims Impact Panel. She greeted my son and me, giving us a quick outline of how the panel operated and the procedures for entering the panel.

Because of the high volume of Hispanic offenders, the organization has a separate Spanish-speaking panel. This night there were 71 offenders attending the Spanish session.

She said the panel had used interpreters and headphones for Spanish-speaking offenders, however, the emotion of the victims got lost in the translation. The Spanish panel has been a much better success for the courts and STOP DUI, she said.

The first rule of the panel is attendants must be fully sober, which includes absolutely no consumption of alcohol on the day of the panel. If offenders show up with alcohol on their breath, they are asked to leave and come back the following month.

This night was no different for one fellow. He said he only had a sip off his girlfriend's beer earlier in the day.

Too bad, so sad.

He was asked to leave and invited to return next month.

Hopefully, his court date is not before the next panel. If so, he could possibly suffer some sanctions by the court for not meeting its requirements.

We had asked to sit in the front center row to have a full view of the audience and hear comments before the presentation.

I was disappointed in the lack of humanity shown by members of the audience. They were rude, insensitive, loud and obnoxious.

More profanity was spoken here than anywhere I have ever been. Among the lowest of human trash, one could spot the more cultured of society. A doctor dressed in scrubs was the most obvious, although there were several people in business suits.

The audience was representative of every socioeconomic level. It was sickening to listen to the complaining by offenders for having to attend the panel.

Heverly sat fully composed, responding to a barrage of idiotic questions and comments before the panel started.

"Are we going to see a movie?" one young lady asked sarcastically. "And have popcorn."

Heverly never lost her composure, although I was squirming in my seat, biting my tongue.

What she knew that I didn't was there would be a transformation over the next 90 minutes. Laughing and smirking would turn to tears and remorse during this time.

Victims' faces and their stories were riveting. The pain they suffer now and forever is real. It doesn't go away.

Images of dismembered Southern Nevadans forever etched in offenders' memories hopefully will serve as a reminder not to drink and drive.

Emotions high, senses tingling, mind and body on overload, my son and I sat among the silent offenders.

It was deafening.

It was numb and the transformation was complete. No more rude, bragging, insensitive, loud and obnoxious comments. My wish is they never return.

My faith in humanity restored, and I have a new hero to cheer. We should think twice before drinking and driving.

Tim O’Callaghan, co-publisher of the News, can be reached at 990-2656 or tim.oc@vegas.com. He writes a regular column for the Home News.

1 comment:

Marcos Smith said...

Please tell me that youre going to keep this up! Its so good and so important. I cant wait to read more from you. I just feel like you know so much and know how to make people listen to what you have to say. This blog is just too cool to be missed. Great stuff, really. Please, PLEASE keep it up!
DUI Risk Reduction Program in McDonough Ga
DUI Risk Reduction Program in Henry County
DUI Risk Reduction Program in Henry County Ga