Founded by a mother whose daughter was killed by a drunk driver, Mothers Against Drunk Driving® (MADD) is the nation’s largest nonprofit working to protect families from drunk driving and underage drinking. With the help of those who want a safer future, MADD’s Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving® will end this danger on America’s roads. PowerTalk 21™ is the national day for parents to talk with their kids about alcohol, using the proven strategies of Power of Parents, It’s Your Influence™ to reduce the risk of underage drinking. And as one of the largest victim services organizations in the U.S., MADD also supports drunk driving victims and survivors at no charge, serving one person every 10 minutes at 1-877-MADD-HELP.

Together, these programs ensure that MADD achieves its lifesaving mission.

Play the Most Valuable Position in the NFL this Football Season

MADD and the National Football League are partnering once again this football season to remind fans to “Play the Most Valuable Position in the NFL—the Designated Driver!” 

Through this game-day partnership, MADD volunteers attend select NFL football games throughout the season providing information at MADD booths, as well as circulate through the parking lots promoting the importance of designating a non-drinking driver before the game begins.

One of the dedicated volunteers who helps make the game-day program a success is Beth Obad, a MADD Erie County volunteer for the past 20 years. Beth volunteers with MADD in honor of her George, who was killed in a drunk driving crash when he was 26 years old. Beth has been a key part of our game day program since it began as a pilot with the Buffalo Bills. She has attended 43 out of the 44 home games over the last 6 years (in the less than ideal weather conditions of Buffalo, New York). Thanks to her dedication and determination, the Buffalo Bills came in 5th place in the 2014 League-Wide Designated Driver Standings (compared 4th worst in 2010). At our National Conference this year, Beth was presented with a football signed by Commissioner Roger Goodell and Tennessee Titan tight end and MADD volunteer Delanie Walker in recognition of her role in making the program successful.

MADD National President Colleen Sheehey-Church, MADD CEO Debbie Weir, Tennessee Titan Delanie Walker, MADD Volunteer Beth Obad, and NFL Commissioner Rodger Goodell

If you are interested in volunteering for the game-day program with the NFL, please contact your local office to see if the team near you is participating.

We are proud of the success of the game day program and are grateful to the NFL for partnering with MADD to help raise awareness about the dangers of drunk driving. This football season, what position will you play?

Why We Walk: Shelly Easter

“It’s hard enough to say goodbye to a loved one to old age or to an illness, but when you are robbed of the chance to say goodbye to someone that is just taken from you with no cause – it haunts you.”

– Kim Ray, Shelly’s sister-in-law

On September 29, 2012, Shelly Janeke Easter was on her way home from picking up sandwiches for her family when she was hit and killed by a drunk driver. The driver was traveling at an excessive speed, ran a red light while passing cars in the wrong lane and hit Shelly’s SUV head on. Shelly died at the scene. She was only four blocks from home.

Kim and her husband went to the scene. They will never forget what they saw.

Shelly was not only Kim’s sister-in-law, but also her best friend.  She misses her every day. Shelly’s daughter Chesney, now 18, still struggles with not having her mother around. Kim and Chesney share a close bond and Kim does what she can to help Chesney but she knows it’s not the same, she misses her mom. Tim, Shelly’s husband of 15 years, also struggles and gets through one day at a time.

To honor Shelly, and help save other victims, Kim is committed to MADD’s mission. Kim and her husband Garry participate each year at the Bell County Walk Like MADD. Kim and Garry even lead the Zumba warm-up. And Shelly’s husband Tim plays in a band, Fireside, and that provides the music and mc for the Walk. Every year they have a team that shows up at the race wearing their “Team Shelly” t-shirts to honor Shelly, and to never forget all the victims and survivors of substance impaired driving crashes. Kim has a dream of one day hosting a MADD for Zumba event in Shelly’s honor.

In addition to participating in Walk Like MADD, Kim testified before the Texas Senate to advocate for a law requiring all offenders to have an ignition interlock device on their car earlier this year. And thanks to her efforts, that law went into effect on Tuesday of this week.

“All I know is that I have to do what I can to make sure that everyone understands and are aware that this could happen to them,” Kim says.

Kim and Garry leading the Zumba warm-up at Walk Like MADD

Tim's band Fireside at Walk Like MADD

Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over This Labor Day Weekend

Labor Day weekend is a time to celebrate the end of summer with backyard barbecues, beach trips and family gatherings. But all too often, the festivities turn tragic with one wrong decision to drink and drive.

During Labor Day weekend in 2013, drunk driving crashes claimed the lives of 161 people—one death every 31 minutes, on average. That’s why the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has launched its Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over Campaign to keep our busy roadways safe this holiday weekend.

Law enforcement officers have already stepped up their efforts during the past two weeks to catch drunk drivers before they can harm others. Officers will be out in full force throughout the long weekend, with effective, high-visibility enforcement that has shown to reduce drunk driving deaths by 20 percent.

This Labor Day weekend, enjoy the waning days of summer by planning for a safe way home for you and your loved ones before consuming alcohol.

Here are a few other ways you can keep protect yourself and your loved ones:

If you plan to be on the road during this potentially dangerous time period, please be careful, and remember to spread the word that driving impaired is simply not worth the risk, so don’t take the chance. Together with law enforcement, we can put an end to the 100 percent preventable deaths and injuries caused by drunk driving.

Why We’re Here: Chilli Vasquez

On July 9, 2011, 7-year-old Xitclalli “Chilli” Vaszquez spent the day at the mall with her sister, cousin, and aunt. She got her hair cut so that she would look extra pretty for her 8th birthday that was just three days away. On their way home, a drunk driver hit the car she was riding in head-on. The doctors didn’t think she would survive—but she did. And her life will never be the same.

Chilli is now paraplegic, which means she has total paralysis of her lower body from the breastbone down.

As part of her healing journey, Chilli decided to write a letter to the offender, which her mother read in court. Here is the letter, as written by Chilli:


The offender in Chilli’s crash pled guilty and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. He’s eligible for parole in five years. Chilli is hoping that he writes her back some day.

Chilli and her family now work with MADD to help raise awareness about the dangers of drunk driving by speaking at MADD events across North Texas. Chilli also shares her story through the Texas Department of Transportation’s (TxDOT) Faces of Drunk Driving campaign. Read more about Chilli and see the other Faces of Drunk Driving victims and survivors at

Online Support for Victims and Survivors

This month we are celebrating the 10th anniversary of the MADD Victim Help Line—a 24 hour phone line for victims and survivors of drunk and drugged driving, as well as underage drinking. While the Help Line serves thousands of people each year, we know that there are many more victims and survivors that need help. That’s why this year, MADD added a service to compliment the call-in Victim Help Line: a live chat feature that can be found on the website. 

Through the live chat box, victims and survivors can chat in real time with a MADD Victim Advocate. If for some reason the advocate is unavailable, the victim or survivor will be prompted to email a Victim Advocate who will respond to their inquiry.  

Many victim and survivors that contact us through the live chat box aren’t aware that MADD provides free victim services. So through this online feature we are able to connect them with a local MADD Victim Advocate who will provide ongoing support.

In just the few months that the online chat feature has been live, we’ve received positive feedback from victims and survivors about their experience:

  • “I am glad that I took this step to get information that can help my niece and it was great having someone there at the other end to help me with a quick response.”
  • “Great service.”
  • “It felt nice to hear somebody from MADD say that nobody should have been allowed to drive that night. She was right about that!! Very nice and compassionate woman.”
  • “Thank you, I had excellent information.  Keep it up!!!”
  • “I want to thank MADD for providing this service. I needed somebody to talk to and had nobody till I found this website… I have always supported MADD and asked others to, also. You all are great! MARCH ON MADD!!!”

MADD Victim Services is excited by the response we’ve had to this new format and we hope to continue to find additional ways to reach and serve victims and survivors of drunk and drugged driving crashes as well as underage drinking.

If you are a victim or survivor in need of support, please call our Help Line at 877.MADD.HELP or chat with us online now on the MADD homepage,


Help Line Volunteer: Glenda Richardson

Glenda Richardson joined MADD 10 years after the drunk driving crash that killed her two sons, ages 4 and 12, as well as her husband, and left her seriously injured. They were heading out on a family vacation when they were hit head on by a drunk driver. 

After the crash, Glenda felt alone – like no one else in the world could relate to what she was going through. At that time, MADD had not been formed yet, and she didn’t have anyone to talk to about what had happened to her. 

That’s why when MADD asked for volunteers to begin answering the Help Line calls, Glenda was one of the first to sign up to provide support to other victims and survivors. Now six year later, Glenda still takes an 8-hour shift on the Help Line every week. Many of the calls that she gets are from victims who have suffered injuries or lost loved ones and are struggling to cope. And just like how Glenda felt after her tragedy, they feel like they don’t have anyone to talk to. Glenda loves being able to give them the gift of listening and provide them with much needed support, sometimes for more than an hour at a time.    

Glenda just recently answered a Help Line call from a woman whose daughter, in her early 20s, had been hit by a drunk driver the night before. Her daughter was in the hospital and had serious injuries, including a serious head injury. The doctor wasn’t giving the family much hope that she would survive. The mom didn’t know where to go or what to do. Glenda was able to talk with her, let her know that MADD was here for her, and put her in touch with her local MADD victim advocate. That night, Glenda sent a message to the local MADD victim advocate and got an immediate response from the advocate stating that they would reach out to the family right away. 

Glenda wants people to know that the MADD Help Line is here to help victims and survivors and to provide support when they need it most.

“There are many things that MADD does that people don’t know about until they are involved in a crash,” Glenda said. “But our goal is to let people know about MADD’s services before they need them.”

Click here to learn more about the Victim/Survivor Help Line and MADD Victim Services. To be put in touch with a MADD Victim Advocate in your area or if you need to speak with someone as soon as possible, call MADD's Victim/Survivor Help Line at 1-877-MADD-HELP (877-623-3435) or send us an email at

Paul David Troutt Paul Ray Troutt Perry Douglas Troutt


We are excited to share with you our new television public service announcement (PSA) for Walk Like MADD, thanks to the generosity of our National Media Partner Velocity!

Please watch and share this new PSA to help spread the word about Walk Like MADD!

Walk Like MADD is the only large-scale, community-based 5K event that provides those personally impacted by drunk driving, and their network of supporters and friends, the opportunity to take steps to stop drunk driving in their community and nationwide. MADD’s Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving® provides the answer and Walk Like MADD provides the venue to rally the support of everyday citizens to help put an end to this 100 percent preventable crime.

There are still many Walk events taking place this year, and several more 2016 events already open for registration! Will you join us?

If you are unable to attend a Walk because of the date or location, you can still sign up as a virtual walker and raise money to eliminate drunk driving in your community. Whatever way you contribute, your support is greatly appreciated.

Don’t have a Walk near you? This year, 34 Walk Like MADD events across the country are run entirely by volunteers who want to make an impact in the fight against drunk driving in their community. If you are interested in learning more about starting a Walk Like MADD event near you, contact

We appreciate your support and hope to see you at a Walk Like MADD event near you soon!

New MADD Victim Services Infographic

Exclusive Benefits and Discounts for MADD Supporters from Nationwide

You and your support of MADD are saving lives and serving victims of drunk and drugged driving.

We are excited to announce that Nationwide® is offering exclusive discounts on insurance for you and other MADD members and supporters around the country. You can learn more here.

Each Nationwide policy purchased through this partnership helps support MADD’s efforts. But Nationwide’s support doesn’t stop there. Nationwide is also a presenting sponsor of Power of Parents® and Tie One On For Safety®.

Thank you Nationwide for supporting MADD and our supporters, and a future with No More Victims™!


Products underwritten by Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company and Affiliated Companies. Home Office: Columbus, OH 43215.  Subject to underwriting guidelines, review, and approval. Products and discounts not available to all persons in all states.
Nationwide and the Nationwide N and Eagle are service marks of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company.

Statement on Aldon Smith Arrest

MADD is upset when anyone is arrested on suspicion of drunk driving; but when it’s a person’s third alleged offense, it’s an outrage. We hope no was injured or killed as a result of this alleged incident, and we support law enforcement’s efforts to thoroughly investigate the matter. If found guilty of drunk driving, we urge that Mr. Smith be required to install an ignition interlock on his vehicle to protect the public and prevent this from happening again. There were 867 drunk driving fatalities in California in 2013, more than one-fourth of all traffic fatalities in the state. With so many alternative ride options available, there’s no excuse for anyone to drink and drive.

MADD Help Line Turns 10

In August of 2005, MADD launched our 24-hour Victim Help Line, 1-877-MADD-HELP. Which means this month marks the 10th anniversary of this lifeline for victims.

When the Help Line started 10 years ago, it was run by seven part-time MADD employees. But now, 19 incredible volunteers donate their time to answer calls on nights and weekends, even on holidays, so that the Help Line is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year – when victims and survivors need it most. They listen to their stories, offer a shoulder to lean on, and provide information about the criminal justice process, and much more.

Some people call right after getting that 2:00 am visit from the police telling them their loved one isn’t coming home. And some call years after the crash, when the heart-wrenching memories come flooding back. They call because they need someone to talk with, vent to, and sympathize with them; someone to listen to them and to understand.

A call on the Help Line can last just five minutes, or as much as a couple of hours if someone really needs to talk – each call is different and based on what that victim or survivor needs.

We are so grateful for these generous and compassionate volunteers who provide support to victims and survivors in their darkest hour. If you are interested in becoming a victim advocate on our Help Line, click here to sign up as a volunteer.

Click here to learn more about the Victim/Survivor Help Line and MADD Victim Services. And to be put in touch with a MADD Victim Advocate in your area or if you need to speak with someone as soon as possible, call MADD's Victim/Survivor Help Line at 1-877-MADD-HELP (877-623-3435) or send us an email at

Boating While Intoxicated

As summer winds down and we head towards one of the last holiday weekends of the season, many families and friends will head to area lakes to celebrate. And while Labor Day weekend is a deadly weekend on our roadways, it can also be dangerous on our waterways.

Every boater needs to understand the risks of boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs (BUI). It is illegal to operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs in every state. The Coast Guard also enforces a federal law that prohibits BUI. This law pertains to ALL boats from canoes and rowboats to the largest ships.

Most importantly, it’s dangerous – just as dangerous and driving a car under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Just ask Alex Otte. When she was 13 years old, she was on a jet ski on Lake Herrington in Danville, KY, when a bass boat going over 60 miles an hour ran into her, flipping the boat and landing on top of her. When Fish and Wildlife showed up on the scene and arrested the man, he was three times over the legal limit two hours later.

As for Alex, she shattered her jaw, broke her neck and collarbone, shattered both femurs, and lacerated her liver. She was in a coma for 4 days and the prognosis didn’t look good. When she woke up, she found that she had lost her right leg.

Now, five years later at the age of only 18, Alex is working to make BUI a bigger priority in the state of Kentucky. Currently, while there is a BUI law on the books, they are largely unenforced and the punishment for getting caught is much more lenient than those for Driving Under the Influence. For example, despite having three priors DUIs on his record, the man who hit Alex was only charged $250.

She is working hard with legislators and the state’s Fish and Wildlife Department to introduce legislation that would make BUI a more serious crime than it currently is. One provision would make the fines and punishments for BUI the same as for DUI. Another provision would make it so that if a person receives a license suspension due to DUI, then their boating registration would also be suspended for the same time period.

Alex wants to make sure that what happened to her never happens to anyone else. You can help as well. If your holiday plans include getting on the water, make sure that the person behind the wheel of the boat understands that drinking and boating is just as dangerous as drinking and driving.


  • Alcohol impairs judgment and coordination—two qualities essential for safe boating.
  • At .035% BAC a boater’s ability to operate a boat is impaired.
  • The environment on a boat - motion, vibration, engine noise, sun, wind and spray - accelerates a drink’s impairment. These stressors cause fatigue that makes a boat operator’s coordination, judgment and reaction time decline even faster when using alcohol.
  • Alcohol can also be more dangerous to boaters because boat operators are often less experienced and less confident on the water than on the highway. Recreational boaters don’t have the benefit of experiencing daily boat operation. In fact, boaters average only 110 hours on the water per year.


Why We’re Here: Mary Irwin

On July 17, 1996, 13-year-old Mary Irwin spent the summer day playing with her best friends, Jesse and Jodi. When it was time for Mary to go home that evening, Jesse and Jodi’s older sister Tracey offered to drive her. So they all piled into their parents van.

On their way, they made a quick stop for snow cones. And after deciding what flavor to get, they hopped back in the van to head home. The next thing Mary remembers is sharp pain, sirens, and panic.

A drunk driver with a BAC almost three times the legal limithad sped across the center line and hit their car head on. Mary, Jesse, and Jodi were severely injured. And Tracey, who was driving the van, died before she made it to the hospital.

A stop for frozen treats on a warm summer night ended in hospital stays and a funeral, and changed many lives forever.

Mary was forced to grow up with the physical and mental scars of the crash – the scar on her face reminders her every day of that tragic night. She still experiences anxiety driving, especially at night.

Now, Mary volunteers with her local MADD office to help save lives. She volunteers at several victim impact panels each month, sharing her story to save lives. She also participants in vigils and monthly support groups to help provide the much needed support for other victims and survivors during their healing journey. She also supports MADD Missouri at their fundraising events, and is a team captain for “Team Tracy” at the St. Louis Walk Like MADD.

Mary works to help make sure no other children have to grow up living with the life-changing consequences of someone else’s choice to drink and drive. So that they can go get snow cones on a summer night without putting their lives in danger.

Concrete Truck Raises Awareness for MADD

Campbell Concrete and Materials in Houston, TX, joined us this year at the Houston Walk Like MADD on June 27th in honor of one of their drivers, Rafael Guerrero and his family. Rafael, his wife Alejandra, their son Luis Angel and Alejandra's brother Gilberto Ortega Jr. were all killed in a drunk driving crash last August.

Thirty Campbell Concrete employees attended the Walk, where they revealed their newly designed “MADD truck” dedicated to Rafael. The truck has MADD’s logo and our 24-hour Help Line number on the side to help remind drivers that drinking and driving don’t mix. It also helps raise awareness for MADD’s free victim services. In fact, the driver of the new MADD truck has been trained to provide information about MADD, and refer victims to MADD Victim Services.

Thank you Campbell Concrete and Materials for this unique way to honor victims and help raise awareness.

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™.

2015 Golden Achievement Award Winners

At this year’s National Presidents Awards at our 35th Anniversary National Conference, Norris and Aline Skelley from MADD Tennessee received the prestigious Golden Achievement Award, the highest award given to MADD volunteers.

This husband and wife team run the Upper Cumberland Chapter of MADD, while also lending their expertise and compassion to statewide events. Their volunteer work with MADD began after Aline’s brother Chris was killed by a drunk driver in 1993. Over the last 22 years, Aline and Norris have honored their brother’s memory by organizing Candlelight Vigils, speaking at Victim Impact Panels, fundraising for Walk Like MADD® events, advocating for victims, and raising awareness in any way possible.

Norris, who serves as the MADD Tennessee Public Policy Chair, and Aline both worked tirelessly in support of Tennessee’s bill for all-offender interlocks, which passed in 2012.  They played a crucial in creating MADD license plates in the state of Tennessee, which brings over $15,000 a year to support MADD’s programs and services in the state. They also coordinate an Annual MADD Softball tournament, which has been raising money for MADD for 17 years.

They symbolize everything MADD stands for with their committed, humanitarian, principled, unassuming, yet keen volunteer work to save lives and support people. They call themselves ordinary everyday people, but they are actually extraordinary people doing extraordinary things, every day. MADD is privileged for them to represent us with such dignity and honor.

“You Always Have A Place” Victim Tribute Recipe Book

We are excited to share with you a new project that honors victims and survivors of drunk and drugged driving crashes, as well as underage drinking victims: the “You Always Have A Place” Victim Tribute Recipe Book.

For so many families, getting together for a meal—whether it’s a simple Sunday breakfast or a grand Thanksgiving feast—is a special time to enjoy each other’s company. But for families that have lost someone to drunk or drugged driving or underage drinking, there’s always someone missing at the table.

That’s why we’ve put together this recipe book—so we can remember our loved ones by sharing some of the dishes that always put a smile on their face.

We hope it serves as a special way to honor those we’ve lost, and make sure they’re not forgotten.  And we hope it serves as a reminder of all the work we have left to do to get to a day when there are no more victims.

Until then, we will continue serving the people impacted by this terrible crime … who will always have a place at MADD. And we will continue honoring the memories of those taken from us … who will always have a place in our hearts.

If you’d like to submit a recipe in honor of a victim or survivor for the next edition, click here and send it to us by July 22.

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 to connect with a MADD Victim Advocate in your area.

New MADD Victim Services PSA

For MADD’s 35th anniversary year, we are proud to release our new PSA focused on MADD Victim Services—the first new PSA about MADD Victim Services in 10 years.

Victims and survivors of drunk and drugged driving crashes, as well as their loved ones, often feel lost and hopeless after a crash. While friends and family members are often available in the days immediately surrounding the tragedy, finding a support system that lasts a lifetime can be difficult. That is why MADD Victim Services are so vital to those who have been impacted by this violent crime.

At MADD, victims always have a place. And always will. We provide supportive services at no charge to the victim and their loved ones, 24-hours a day, 365-days a year, as long as they need us. With this PSA, we hope to reach even more victims and survivors to spread the word that MADD is here for them.

We would like to give a special thanks to the three families from North Texas who took part in the PSA: Gwendolyn and Louis Edwards whose son Louis Jarrod was killed in a drunk driving crash in November of 2010; Joshua Tisdale, a young boy whose mother Kelly Tisdale was killed as a pedestrian in a drugged driving crash in September 2011; Hermelinda and Juan Martinez whose sister Maria Vazquez was killed by a drunk driver on Father’s Day in 2012.

The families are followed by MADD National President Colleen Sheehey-Church, whose son Dustin was killed by a drunk and drugged driver in July 2004. The bond they wish they never had in common—drunk and drugged driving tragedies that were 100% preventable. Tragedies that led them to find comfort and help… and eventually hope… at MADD.

Please watch and share this new PSA to help spread the word to the hundreds of thousands injured every year, and to the loved ones of the more than 10,000 people killed, to let them know that they always have a place at MADD.