Dennis Hammond, a resident of Huntsville, Alabama was recently charged for the death of a pregnant woman after driving head-on into the car she was in. The accident took place on Jordan Lane on a Saturday afternoon, according to a police spokesperson. The victim, Danetria Rice, was taken to a local hospital where she later died. Police reported the infant she was carrying survived but was in critical condition. Hammond was driving south but ended up careening into the vehicle in the northbound lane in which Rice’s husband was driving. Rice and her 2-year-old daughter were his passengers. The tragedy was all too familiar. 31 percent of vehicular fatalities that take place in the U.S. are a result of drivers who test positive for alcohol.
Driving while under the influence of alcohol is measured by the quantity of alcohol present in your blood at the site of an accident. In the state of Alabama, the criminal justice system is strict with those who have the following blood alcohol concentrations while they’re behind the wheel:
0.08% or more.
0.04% or more in a commercial vehicle.
0.02% or more, if you are younger than 21 years old.
Both the Alabama courts and the Alabama Department of Public Safety (DPS) will play a role in making sure that if you’re intoxicated while navigating a vehicle, you’ll be duly punished. Not cooperating with police officers who attempt to administer a chemical test will make the situation that much worse because not complying with them is a violation of the Implied Consent laws every driver who is issued a license in the state of Alabama implicitly agrees to. There are numerous reasons why refusing to allow a police officer to give you a field sobriety test only makes the matter at hand worse. One is that your license can be suspended for up to a year. Another is that a lock can be placed on the ignition key of your vehicle. The only way you’ll be able to drive if this is the case, is if you first pass an on-the-spot breathalyzer test. Installation costs of the ignition technology that is necessary to monitor you is your expense. Your problems compound each time you’re caught operating a car, truck or motorcycle while under the influence:
1st offense: 90 days 2nd offense: 12 months 3rd offense: 3 years. 4th and subsequent offense: 5 years.
If you think that’s the extent of your problems, you’re mistaken. Your car will be impounded. While the penalties for each infraction may differ, your accountability for the offense of drunk driving will not be something that quickly or easily goes away. Getting back on the road if you’ve completed your sentence, can include the following:
A fee of $275 or more to reinstate your license that’s paid to the Department of Public Safety (DPS)
Proof that you’re financially responsible typically demonstrated with an SR22 form from your car insurer
Participation in a substance abuse counseling program
Taking a written and road test again
Of course, drivers arrested for DUI charges fare better than might be expected when they have professional legal representation. DUIwise is one such legal service that helps drivers who have made the error of driving while intoxicated get charges against them dropped or reduced. Consultations with them are free and often arranged at DUIwise.com.
Alabama police arrested 1,071 people for DUIs in 2015. They arrested 893 in 2016. Huntsville is known for having a designated “driving while under the influence” unit that makes it its business to find drunk drivers that are out on state roads and arrest them. On holidays such as Memorial Day, they set up checkpoints in key locations where drivers are asked for their licenses so they can be run to make sure there are no violations on them. Drivers who smell of alcohol or indicate they’ve been drinking to the point that they’re dangerous to others will be closely screened for signs that they’ve drunk more than they’re legally supposed to while behind the wheel. Checkpoints are methodically located in areas such as those with a high concentration of bars or are near a sports arena.
Alabama has adequate state funding to pay overtime to officers who man checkpoints past normal work hours. The state has been aggressive at cracking down on DUI offenses. The number of drunk drivers on the road in 2016 is subsequently lower than it was in 2015. The Huntsville Police Department consistently ranks high as a U.S. city actively trying to get drunk drivers off the roads.
“But now she’s gone — like a flame on a candle that just went out,” Danetria Rice-Johnson’s teenage sister told an Alabama reporter. “Now, we’ll never be able to make future memories. She’ll never be able to see her newborn’s face or spend Christmas with us. She’ll never see her daughter go to kindergarten.”
If only Dennis Hammond had been thwarted by the task force’s efforts, but he slipped through the cracks. It’s simply impossible to find and deter everyone who makes the mistake of getting behind the wheel and thinking they can drive with an unsafe level of alcohol in their blood.