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2015 Campaign Success


You did it! Your emails, phone calls and personal visits to lawmakers have made the difference in getting new legislation passed to protect our loved ones from drunk driving.

This year, Texas became the 25th state with an all-offender ignition interlock law. That means, thanks to you, we are halfway to reaching our goal of every state passing a law for ignition interlocks after the first drunk driving offense!

In addition, Kentucky passed a law requiring interlocks for first-time offenders with a BAC of .15 or higher. And in Colorado, you helped get a law passed that makes drunk driving a felony after the fourth offense and increases the ignition interlock requirement for repeat offenders.

Your efforts also helped put more muscle into an all-offender ignition interlock law in Arkansas. Now, convicted offenders can only get their driving privileges restored after proving they have used an ignition interlock. And last month in Illinois, lawmakers sent to the Governor three bills improving the state’s all-offender law.

And we’re not done yet. We are so close in New Jersey to enacting a life-saving interlock law. In February, the legislature sent an all-offender bill to the Governor’s desk. However, the Governor agreed to sign a revised all-offender bill, provided lawmakers make some changes. MADD hopes lawmakers and the Governor can come to an agreement this fall so New Jersey can enact this important legislation.  

We are also still working hard in several other states to get laws passed this year, including North Carolina, Ohio, California, Massachusetts, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Click here to contact your lawmakers to advocate for change.

The passage of ignition interlock laws for all offenders is a key element of MADD’s Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving®. Requiring all convicted drunk drivers to use ignition interlocks to prove they are sober before they can start their vehicles has been shown to save lives and stop drunk driving. Click here to learn more about ignition interlocks.

Thank you for all of your efforts to help save lives and eliminate drunk driving. We are now one step closer to becoming a nation with No More Victims™!


Volunteer Spotlight: Arlene Victor

Giving your time to an organization is always praiseworthy. But when you dedicate 30 years to a cause … well that is just extraordinary.

This year, the MADD Iowa Chapter celebrates its 30 year anniversary, and the woman who started it all, celebrates 30 years of saving lives and serving people.

Arlene Victor found herself facing the unthinkable when a drunk driver killed her son Marty and his wife Chris on Easter Sunday in 1984. Kelley, her 16-month-old granddaughter, was hospitalized for a week after the crash – her arm had been broken in five places.

Suddenly, she found herself grieving her son and daughter-in-law while also caring for her granddaughter, now orphaned by the crash. Arlene and her husband Cletus were named Kelley’s legal guardians, and made providing for her their priority. 

She explained in a MADD Victim Services newsletter article in 2007, “What doesn’t kill you makes you strong.  I didn’t have a choice about what happened, but I did have a choice about what to do with the rest of my life.”

It wasn’t long before Arlene met others impacted by this senseless crime. Together, they decided that something had to be done to ensure their children’s deaths were not in vain. So in 1985 they applied and were granted a charter, creating the Dubuque-Jackson County MADD Chapter in Iowa.

Since becoming a MADD volunteer, Arlene has spoken to tens of thousands of young people in area schools and colleges, hosted bi-monthly Victim Impact Panels, raised money to provide local law enforcement with video and breathalyzer equipment, launched public awareness campaigns, provided victim advocacy for those impacted by drunk or drugged driving, and ensured that MADD maintained a presence in Iowa every day for the last 30 years. In short, she’s nothing short of remarkable. 

MADD cannot begin to say thank you enough to Arlene for her tireless dedication and efforts to save lives in Iowa. But she doesn’t do it for praise or thanks. She does it to save lives. And undoubtedly, she has done just that.

If you are interested in saving lives like Arlene, consider becoming a MADD volunteer. Click here to sign up and someone from a MADD office near you will contact you. Every hour you give helps put us one step closer to a future with No More Victims™.


The Truth Behind the Plea Bargain

After a drunk driving crash, often families must face a painful and drawn-out legal process in order to hold the offender accountable for their crime. It involves numerous court appearances and hearings, and sometimes after months of these proceedings, a prosecutor will decide to offer the offender a plea bargain. This can be painful for some victims and survivors who feel like they need their day in court in order to obtain justice.

Why are Plea Bargains Necessary?

So why do prosecutors sometimes offer a plea bargain in substance impaired driving cases?

Joshua D. Ross, Assistant District Attorney with the Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney’s Office in Fort Worth, explains unfortunately, plea bargains are a necessary cog in the wheel of the criminal justice system due to the volume of cases on a docket. A benefit of a plea bargains is that it resolves the case without the risks of the unknown, for example, an alleged offender proven innocent of charges.

A plea bargain also guarantees the alleged offender will have the offense on their criminal record. Oftentimes this will be a lesser charge but in doing so, the defendant waives their right to an appeal. The risk of going to trial is that an alleged offender can get off and there will be no record of the offense on their criminal record. If they were to be charged again on the same, or similar offense, of substance impaired driving, it would show as their first offense, which could result in a lighter sentence.

Ross also acknowledges that a disadvantage of accepting a plea is that the alleged offender is allowed to accept a lesser charge and the victim, survivor and their family may be left feeling they did not receive justice for themselves or their loved one.

When determining to accept a plea, the prosecutor evaluates several factors:

  • The strengths of the case
  • The defendant’s criminal history
  • Office policies
  • The wishes of the victim or deceased person’s family.

Other things the prosecution may need to consider in deciding to plea bargain include who is the jury? Where do they live? What time of year is it? And who will be the presiding judge? All of these considerations must be weighed as they can all factor into the judgement should a case go to trial.

Deciding to plea bargain a substance impaired driving case is a risk that the prosecution sometimes has to take in order to guarantee a charge, which can be difficult for victims and their families to understand. However, in most jurisdictions, the State has just as much a right to a jury trial as the defendant. So in cases where the prosecution feels confident that they can obtain a conviction with the jury selected, it’s worth the risk to refuse to make a plea offer.

Ultimately, it’s important for victims and survivors to understand that the decision whether or not to offer a plea resides with the prosecutor. However, even if a plea bargain is agreed upon by the prosecution and defense, a judge does not have to honor that plea and can give a sentence within the range of punishment for the offense.

Trials can be confusing and emotionally exhausting for victims and their families. That is why in many areas MADD offers court accompaniment as part of our Victim Services. If you or a loved one has been impacted by a drunk driving crash, please call our Help Line at 877.MADD.HELP or email victims@madd.org to connect with a MADD Victim Advocate in your area.


A Family Vacation Ending in Tragedy

By Matthew Mantanona

On the afternoon of May 13, 2011 we were on our way to Sea World in San Antonio for a mini family vacation when our lives changed forever. A truck failed to stop at a country road intersection and smashed into our vehicle.

It all happened so quickly. Moments later, I woke to the screams of my wife Michelle that our 8-year-old son Jarrett did not have a pulse. For 45 minutes – which felt like an eternity – I tried to revive my son, only to have responders tell me to stop and that he was gone. It was like a scene out of a movie as they covered Jarrett with a white blanket.

I completely lost it and attempted to run after the man that killed my son. Thankfully, I was stopped by some first responders. The next thing on my mind was … how will I explain this to my youngest son Jonathan, who was only 3 years old. 

I carried Jonathan to where Jarrett laid covered with a thin white blanket and sat down on the road.  I tried to explain to him that brother Jarrett is in heaven now and he’s not coming back.  It was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. As a man, a father and a husband I was supposed to protect my family, I was supposed to fix what was broken. This I could not fix.

Later we find out the 18-year-old driver, along with two other underage females, was under the influence of alcohol. A fourth person, a 33-year-old man, was later arrested for fleeing the scene, and it was determined that he had provided the alcohol to these individuals. 

We have turned our loss into something positive, sharing our story on many occasions in hopes that we can bring an end to drinking and driving. We have gone to the Texas State Capital, with the assistance of Rep. Susan King and staff to try and pass two piece of legislation that would change how adults are held accountable for providing alcohol to minors. If an underage drinker causes a person to suffer serious bodily injury or death, the adult providing the alcohol would face felony charges. This would make it clear that adults should not be providing alcoholic beverages to minors. The second bill realigns the legal drinking age as it relates to civil liability. Currently, liability exists only for providing alcohol to anyone under the age 18. This bill would treat anyone under 21 as a minor as it relates to intoxication.  We have testified on two separate occasions. But unfortunately, both times the bills fell short of being heard on the floor.

Four years have passed, but the pain is always there. We just hope that our story and the stories of many others that have been in our shoes, will change those that take for granted their lives and lives around them when they decided to drink and get behind the wheel.

 

 


Why We Walk: David Weinstein

By Deborah Weinstein, David’s Mom

My son David was killed by a drunk driver May 11, 2011. It was two days after Mother’s Day and two days before his 30th Birthday.

All because of someone’s selfish act, my husband and I, along with our family and his friends, will always have a missing piece in our lives. The drunk driver who killed David was sentenced to 8 years in prison. But the number of years does not matter, I will never get my son back. He was sweet, kind and loved by everyone. There is not a day that goes by that David is not in our thoughts.

After David died I was searching for something...I needed a purpose to move forward. I went on the MADD website. I noticed they had a walk, Walk Like MADD. I am the owner of Curves, a women’s fitness center, and walks for charities and fitness is what I do. But there wasn’t walk in St. Louis. There was not even a walk in Missouri.

I went to the MADD office in St. Louis and talked with Meghan Carter, the State Executive Director for Missouri, and I told her I wanted to start a walk in our city. And that is what we did. I wasn’t sure if I could raise $500 or $5,000.

We had our first walk in May 2013. It was important to me to have the walk in May. It’s Mother’s Day, David’s Birthday and the anniversary of David’s death. In year one, we raised $15,000. In 2014 we raised $15,000 and this year we raised $17,000.

Each year the walk grows and we have more and more teams come together to honor their loved ones. This year we added a raffle. Next year we are adding a timed race to encourage more runners to participate, and I want to continue to add sponsors.


David's Family at Walk Like MADD

The walk is everything that I expected it to be, and more. It allows us to all come together to honor and celebrate our loved ones. You are able to meet others who understand your pain and find out that you are not alone.

I do not want David to have died in vain. I want to bring awareness to the dangers of drunk driving. Raising more awareness can only be done if we help raise the money to help fund MADD programs. The deaths by drunk driving are 100% preventable. MADD has so many services to help those affected by drunk driving. I share David’s story with you in the hope that you will see the work we still have to do to save lives like his.

I could not have done this without the support of all my family and friends. My family supports MADD and hopes that by walking and raising awareness we can spare someone else this heartache. I don’t want anyone to feel the pain and loss that my family has suffered.

Everyone tells me how strong I am. You don’t know how strong you are until you have to be.


 


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