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Seven Ways the Justice System Will Frustrate You

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.


Teddy Bears Make a Difference

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.

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 Police

Posted by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) on Tuesday, May 16, 2017

 


Mother’s Day and Reconciling the Loss of a Child: Tips on Handling Grief in the Wake of a Celebration

For all you mothers out there, you look forward to a day like Mother’s Day because you know that you can put your feet up and enjoy all the well-deserved attention from the kids and your significant other. It’s also a day to just simply celebrate the joy that is motherhood where you can fulfill all those motherly feelings that you have developed over the years.

What happens, though, when that role of mother takes an untimely turn and you must deal with the loss of a child? While grief for every type of loss is difficult and unbearable at times, losing a child can seem like it is impossible to ever get past. After all, as the parent, you are supposed to go before your children – they are your heritage and a way to keep your name and memory living on. You are also at a loss with what to do with all the motherly feelings you have in terms of caring for others and filling that role as Mom.

No matter when it occurred, the loss of a child can consume you in sadness, but it tends to hit even harder on special days like holidays, their birthday, and days like Mother’s Day when you think about how they would have been doing something with you on that day or would have made you something with their hands and heart.

Here are some tips for handling that grief in the wake of a celebration on Mother’s Day that your other children or family members want to hold:

  • Don’t feel guilty celebrating Mother’s Day. As a mother, you most likely feel that you did not do enough to protect your child from whatever led to their death. Mothers are programmed to have that innate need to protect their young, so when you have feelings that you failed it may be difficult to want to celebrate something like Mother’s Day. It’s easy to tell you to not feel guilty more than it is to not feel guilty, but it is important to remind yourself that you did what you could and cannot control many things in life. What you can do is celebrate even being able to have the honor and experience to be a mother to someone. It’s a special role that everyone respects you for taking on.
  • Cherish those who are still with you. If you have other children, this is the time to become even closer with them and cherish every minute you have with them. Make every moment special, including a celebration of Mother’s Day. And, if you don’t have any other children, draw close to your spouse and other family members during this time. Maybe your child was older and left behind a spouse and children, so this is also an opportunity to pour your affection into them. Those bonds are some of the best medicine you can treat yourself with when dealing with any sense of loss. They want to tell you how much they appreciate you as a mom.
  • Lean on those around you. Let yourself need and ask for help from others. So many mothers forget how to reach out because they are always the ones doing for everyone else. This is a point in time where others want to help in any way they can, including being a listening ear or taking some of the work off your shoulders. Let them – and, if not them, it’s okay to talk to someone outside the family that may be an objective and safe place to talk about your grief. If you’re struggling with other areas such as an addiction during this time, there are also help centers that can help with that.  In and around days like Mother’s Day is a critical time where you may need more support than you thought so keep communication lines open to reach out.
  • Use the day to reminisce about those special moments you shared. When you are ready, you can look at Mother’s Day as a remembrance day for the child who is no longer with you. This can involve looking at photos or videos of happy times you shared as well tell others stories about the best times together. These are also ways to heal while celebrating the positive aspects of having that person in your life albeit limited.
  • Find other places to put your mom skills to work. So many people don’t get to have loving mothers for one reason or another, so you might consider taking those skills and innate ability and putting toward someone that could use that affection and mentoring. Depending on what you and your family feel comfortable with, you might consider foster parenting, adoption, or volunteer work with children. While this may not be how you want to personally deal with your grief right now, it might be something for the future when you feel like you could add something to those in need. When you have so much love to give, this might be a good way to reconcile your feelings of loss.

Grief will hit you even when it’s not Mother’s Day and you may not be expecting how, when, and how hard it hits you when it’s the loss of a child. Consider these strategies for beyond Mother’s Day because you don’t want your grief to consume you and take you away from a life that is still more than likely rich in many ways.


Supporting Law Enforcement

In recognition of National Police Week, established in 1962 as a time to honor the men and women who put their lives on the line daily to protect and serve, we pause to say thank you to all law enforcement officers and to remember the 143 officers killed in the line of duty last year.

This is a special week for Mothers Against Drunk Driving® and all of our supporters. Supporting law enforcement is a major component of our longstanding Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving®. Law enforcement plays a critical role in the fight to end drunk driving — and it often comes with a high cost. This year, we have already lost more than 40 heroes in the line of duty.

So, let's take a moment to say thanks. We will keep saying it all year long, thanks in part to our valuable partner Nationwide®. Together, we will host Law Enforcement Recognition events across the country. These events provide an opportunity to recognize outstanding service in the fight to create a future of No More Victims®.

Additionally, we are proud to update you regarding the Give a Bear Hug campaign, which earlier this year asked supporters to donate to provide law enforcement with teddy bears for young children. MADD donors provided enough to pass out nearly 250 bears, which have been mailed out. Be on the look out for pictures of the distribution on Facebook and Twitter!

Finally, we encourage you this week to take a moment on your favorite social media channel to say thank you to your local departments. They need to know we appreciate their service.


Giving the Shirt Off His Back

Leroy, who lives in Arizona, is the brother of a MADD Bay Area San Francisco volunteer. Leroy recently fell and broke his hip and is currently in rehab. He’s a long-time supporter of MADD Bay Area Walks, and he treasurers wearing his many Walk T-shirts.


Leroy was wearing one of his MADD T-shirts yesterday when a wheelchair-bound patient at the rehab facility asked him about the shirt. This disabled fellow has been living in this rehab facility for the past 9 years after being struck by a drunk driver.  Leroy offered him his MADD T-shirt, literally “giving him the shirt off his back”.


Though we can see that the fellow struggles, we were moved by his “thumb’s up” attitude as he proudly donned his new shirt. He has difficulty speaking, but was able to say “Good Deal!” as he was putting his thumb up.


We just never know how many people we’re reaching… even thousands of miles away.


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