A West Virginia Law Enforcement Officer wrote President Colleen Sheehey-Church a heartfelt letter about how her presentation at a recent conference renewed his drive to fight drunk driving. Read below:
Let me start this by telling you a little about myself. I have been employed by County Sheriff's Department in West Virginia for almost 15 years. Before that, I was a city patrolman in a nearby small city for two years. So all together, I have been working on the road as a police officer or deputy for almost 17 years.
During that 17 years, I have always been very active in traffic enforcement and arresting DUI's. I can't tell you for sure how many DUI's I have arrested over time, but, if I haven't surpassed 1,000 DUI arrests by now, I am very close to it. During the last year (2016) and into this year (2017), that non-stop drive to always be stopping cars and arresting DUI's has started to slip some. Don't get me wrong, I still make the arrests. I find that I'm just not the guy out there every night looking for offenders left and right, making DUI arrests every night over the last year and a half as I was before.
Now, lets jump to the 2017 West Virginia Highway 2 Enforcement Conference. I was attending this years conference with the lowest number of DUI arrests I have ever had in a year. As I sat in the room and listened to your keynote address to us, I really listened to what you were saying and the story you told about your son Dustin.
I can relate to your story a little. I did not have a son that was killed by an impaired driver. However, I did have a father that was killed by a drugged driver. The women who rear-ended him was high on OxyContin and marijuana at the time of the crash. This was enough to motivate me to get into the Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) school and complete it to become one of the DRE's for my area.
Like my job, I'm sure you put in countless hours for very little pay or respect and might sometimes wonder if what you say gets through to anyone.
I don't know how many people were in the room when you were giving your speech in West Virginia on the 25th of May 2017, but I just want you to know you got through to at least one person. You can consider me motivated to continue the fight against impaired driving until the last day I put my vest on and put a gun belt around my waist.
I know what happened to your son and my father can never be changed, but I hope in doing my job I can keep someone else from having to go through the tragedies we share. I want to thank you for the job you do with MADD. Please never think that what you do always falls on deaf ears. If you only reach one or two people every time you give a speech to law enforcement officers and motivate them to get more active with impaired driving enforcement, it is worth it. The one or two officers you reach might be the officers who stop the car that is about to turn someone's life upside down and inside out.
- From a member of the West Virginia Law Enforcement
In the wake of recent legislation in Missouri, MADD volunteer Michael E. Boland pays homage to the dedicated efforts of MADD supporters and volunteers whose tireless efforts showed MADD's potential impact in future such battles. Read below:
Dear MADD Missouri Friend and Family,
As the special session of the legislative body came to an end last week, it was not a great week for MADD Missouri with the retention of HB4 in this year’s budget. I won’t go into what the problem was. I believe you all are painfully aware of the problem, but in the reality of politics, we lost. We lost not because of anything we did or did not do; we lost because of legislators using procedure to pass legislation. With every defeat in policy, comes an opportunity with the bad policy decision of this year to change it back next year and that is what we plan on doing. We plan on starting immediately after this year’s session stands.
But as this session ends, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the amazing people that worked on this these past months to defeat HB4 just to name a few.
First, Mr. David Warner, a volunteer from St. Louis, who shared his journey and his love of his brother to write the most eloquent letters - both to the editor, but more importantly, he opened a dialog with Representative Conway. She turned out to be our biggest supporter in the conference committee, and even more important, he has retained her support in our fight to change this horrible legislation next year. We owe David a great deal of appreciation, as he left us in a good position for our fight next year.
Second, Bill Whitfield, Director of the Missouri Department of Transportation Traffic and Highway Safety Division, for being our ear to the ground in Jefferson City. Bill was critical in keeping us informed.
Third, Colonel Ron Replogle (retired) MSHP. His expertise on how the Appropriations Committee works, his experience as Colonel of the MSHP, and being involved in the process for five years as the leader of the Patrol - Ron will never know what a difference he was and what a support system he was to Meghan.
Fourth, Chris Mann, MADD National Board member from Kansas City, Kansas, for being such a strong advocate for MADD Missouri and for law enforcement.
Fifth - and some of the most important people of all the men and women of MADD Missouri - the volunteers. The heart and soul of MADD who were amazing. Anything that was asked of them, they went above and beyond our expectation in calling their Senators and Representatives. My deepest respect for all your help in fighting this abdominal piece of legislation.
But most of all to two amazing women that work for MADD. First, our MADD State Executive Director, Meghan Carter, who orchestrated the drive to repeal HB4. The results were not what she had expected. With that said, there is not enough room on this page to share my gratitude and respect I have for this young lady. Meghan put together a powerful coalition of leaders around the state, kept everyone informed with great organization and expertise after many brainstorming sessions, many laughs and tears. We, at MADD, owe her a deep amount of gratitude for a job well done. I hope you all will drop a note of thanks and appreciation for THE outstanding work she did at Meghan.Carter@madd.org.
And finally, for me, when the teacher becomes the student. I am fairly proficient at Public Policy, but throughout this, I learned so much from MADD National Policy guru, Becky Iannotta, from Washington D.C.
Becky taught me the importance and the use of social media, in furthering our goals in repealing HB4. Becky was the catalyst for change each day she would confer with Meghan and me, and she would tweet and post and send out press releases and letters to the editor. We would have never reached so many elected officials without her unwavering support. I cannot even begin to tell you how vital Becky was in getting our voice heard in Jefferson City.
In closing, yes - we had a setback, but more importantly, we have an opportunity to be a powerful force in Missouri as we prepare to reverse this legislation and have our voices heard. We were heard and will be heard as we move forward next year. So in the coming days, take the time to pat yourselves on the back for the job you did and prepare for a full court press as we start next Monday to begin to work for a reversal next year. As always, thank you to all for your time and talent in giving back to MADD.
With my Deepest Respect,
Michael E Boland
On Friday, March 17, 2017, a DWI Checkpoint was conducted in cooperation with the Greene County Sheriff’s Department and the Springfield Police Department on MO 13 (Kansas Expressway) at Broadmoor Street in Springfield, Greene County, Missouri. Missouri Department of Transportation and Mothers Against Drunk Driving were present during the checkpoint. During the checkpoint 780 vehicles were contacted which generated the following results:
Missouri Highway State Patrol:
5 – DWIs (1 of which was a DWI drugs)
1 – Safety belt
1 – No driver’s license
3 – DWR / DWS
1 – Misd. drugs
2 – Felony drugs (meth)
1 – Other felony arrest
34 – Warnings
12 – SFST
9 – PBTs
Greene County Sheriff’s Department:
2 – DWIs
2 –Warrants (Parole Absconder and Forgery)
1 -- Possession of Controlled Substance (9.5 grams of meth, 1 gram of heroin)
1 -- Possession of Drug Paraphernalia
1 -- Possessed 35 Grams or Less of Marijuana
1 -- DWLR (Driving While License Revoked)– Felony
1 -- DWLR
1 -- MIP (Minor In Possession)
Springfield Police Department:
2 – DWIs
3 – DWR (Driving While Revoked) / DWS
The weather was clear and the temperature was mild. The number of motorists entering the checkpoint was as expected. A clear message was sent to the motoring public that there is a “zero tolerance” for driving while impaired and each officer should be commended for their efforts. MADD is grateful to law enforcement for dedicating their time, resources and lives to keeping our roads safe. Numbers like these show just how valuable their dedication is.
When an innocent bystander is killed or injured in a drunk or drugged driving crash, certain expectations fall into place.
We expect the offender to understand the consequences of their actions. We expect the punishment to fit the crime. We expect justice.
Sadly, far too often, there is no justice for victims. After all, as one victim said, it’s called the “criminal” justice system, not the “victim” justice system. The complex and confusing justice system can be difficult and emotionally exhausting to navigate.
So, today, we are sharing seven ways a victim or survivor could find the justice system frustrating.
- The offender may not be arrested immediately – If the offender was injured in a crash they are often taken to the hospital rather than jail. In doing so, many offender’s do not get arrested for quite a while after the crash because police don’t want to have to pay for the medical expenses of the offender if they are taken into custody. That doesn’t mean an arrest won’t happen, it just means it may take some time.
- Offenders often bond out – If you have lost a loved one or been injured, your life dramatically changes from the moment of impact until, well, forever. You begin serving your sentence immediately. However, the same may not be true for the alleged offender. Since our justice system is based on the idea of innocent until proven guilty, offenders often bond out of jail until the trial begins. Victims share that it can be painful to see social media posts by the offenders as they continue living their life while the victims are left to pick up the pieces of what is left of their life.
- The charges – At MADD, we believe and push for charges that reflect how the offender made the choice to drive impaired, transforming their vehicle into a deadly and violent weapon. That’s why we support a felony charge in all crashes that result in a death or bodily injury. However, if the attorney in the case doesn’t feel they have a strong case, lesser charges may be brought. These charges may not even mention alcohol or drugs. The charges can go as low as “reckless driving” or “fleeing the scene of a crime,” a common offender tactic since it makes it more difficult to prove impairment.
- Delays – While not specific to drunk and drugged driving cases, delays can be a main source of frustration for victims and survivors. It is quite common for cases to take two years or even longer to reach the sentencing phase. The delays can and often do occur at every step of the case and can include delays by the alleged offender themselves, attorneys on either sides or even the judge due to scheduling purposes.
- Plea deals– Plea deals are common. This means if an offender was charged with a serious crime, it can become watered down. Few things frustrate a victim or survivor more than watching as justice slips further and further away. Plea deals, although frustrating, can sometimes be a good thing in a case where sympathetic jurors can chip away at a rock solid case, sometimes causing a mistrial or a not guilty verdict.
- Sentencing – Once a case FINALLY gets to the sentencing phase, the frustration may not be over yet. Complacent attitudes about drunk and drugged driving, a misguided attempt not to “ruin” the offender’s life and other factors often lead judges to sentence offenders leniently. In some cases, the law itself provides sentencing guidelines which many victims and survivors don’t find acceptable for the death of a loved one or injury due to a crash.
- Absconded – Sometimes, such as in the case of the Affluenza teen, offenders flee from the consequences of their crimes. This can leave victims with little recourse through the justice system unless the offender is later caught.
A MADD Victim Advocate can help make the criminal justice system less scary, less intimidating and less frustrating by preparing victims for likely scenarios and outcomes. Even if an advocate cannot change the court’s mind, they will stand with a victim, hold their hand and ensure no one has to go through this alone.
If you are a victim or survivor of drunk and drugged driving, please call our national, 24/7 Victim Help Line at 1-877-MADD-HELP.
This week we went to visit the Grand Prairie Police Department to provide teddy bears for them to give to children endangered by drunk driving. The truth of the matter is that over 50% of children involved in a drunk driving crash are riding with the offender. This can be a terrifying and traumatic experience for a child and MADD wanted to give teddy bears to police officers so that they might be able to give a bit of hope to scared children in just such a situation.
By donations from you, we were able to secure nearly 250 teddy bears for departments to request and for their officers to share with these endangered children. We are proud to say we were able to fill not only the request of the Grand Prairie PD but also many other police departments.
The timing for this event could not have been more perfect as this week (May 15-21) is Law Enforcement Appreciation Week. We want to make sure to thank Good Bears of the World, which provided the bears, as well.
At this event, MADD North Texas Manager of Victim Services Terri Peaks took the opportunity to mention the statistics behind child endangerment and drunk driving as well as to recognize the Grand Prairie PD for their efforts to end drunk driving.
Drunk driving victim Donna Davila told her story. In 2014, her then pregnant daughter was killed by a drunk driver in Fort Worth. Davila lives very near the Grand Prairie Police Department and it is especially heartening to her to see these officers show support so close to home.
She was grateful for the opportunity to share her story and also to thank the officers for dedicating their lives to protecting our roads.
As Davila said in a Dallas Morning News article, these bears can bring children the peace they need. MADD thanks you for helping us give these little bundles of hope to children in desperate need of just that -- hope.
If you haven't donated toward a teddy bear yet, it's not too late! You too can join us in offering hope to endangered children here: madd.org/bearhug
If you missed the Facebook Live broadcast, watch it now!
#MADDLive Passing out donor-funded teddy bears for endangered children to the Grand Prairie PolicePosted by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) on Tuesday, May 16, 2017