Published: Monday, December 23, 1991

Section: EDITORIAL

Page: 12A

THINK 'MANDATORY PENALTIES' BEFORE YOU DRINK

To The Editor: The Dade County Courts have six full-time judges devoted to addressing only DUI cases. While a recent Herald article reported a reduction in DUI-related fatalities from last year, I have not seen a commensurate reduction in DUI cases crossing my desk. I have presided over many DUI jury trials. I no longer am surprised that in almost every trial there is at least one prospective juror whose relative or friend was either killed or injured by a drunk driver. Prospective jurors themselves have admitted being charged and even convicted of DUI. Each week my colleagues and I have at least 300 DUI cases for arraignment or trial. This figure does not include cases arraigned at the Dade's satellite courthouses. The numbers seem a constant. So, why hasn't the public learned?

Many people believe that a driver with a blood-alcohol content of less than 0.10 percent cannot be convicted of DUI. This is not so. If the driver's blood-alcohol levels is more than 0.05 but less than 0.10 percent, the reading may be considered with other competent evidence to determine DUI. In other words, a driver with a blood-alcohol reading of 0.05 percent or more can be convicted of DUI. The penalties for a first time DUI conviction are significant. The penalties are mandatory. There are no second chances. You will be adjudicated guilty. You probably will be stigmatized for the rest of your life. So when you apply for that new job and are asked "Have you ever been convicted of a crime?" you must answer "Yes," and then explain.

The mandatory minimum penalties for a first-time DUI with a blood-alcohol reading of less than a 0.20 percent but where there has been no serious bodily injury include a $250 fine; court costs and surcharges of about $300; six months of reporting probation; and 50 hours of community service. You also could be sentenced o up to six months in jail. These penalties do not include the cost of hiring a lawyer or the increase in your car-insurance rates -- if you can obtain insurance. While DUIs are a year-round problem, they culminate during the holiday season. During this season, when good will and joy flourish and the free flow of intoxicating beverages abound, I urge everyone to act responsibly and to consider the consequences of their actions.

If you see someone impaired, don't let that person drive. If you are impaired, don't drive! Call a taxi, a friend, or find alternative transportation. A failure to do so could end your life or the life of a loved one. At the very least, you could become a convict.

Think before you drink!

Scott J. Silverman

Judge, Dade County Court

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