Between the embarrassment, the stigma and the uncertainty, a DUI arrest can be a traumatic experience in and of itself. The following days and weeks may offer little relief as you face the prospect of jail time, fines and license suspension—not to mention possibly jeopardizing your job if you can’t get to work.
If you’re facing this kind of situation in the wake of a DUI arrest, however, the real question isn’t what will happen if you’re convicted, but what happens after your case is closed. Regardless of whether you’re convicted or how severe the penalties, the DUI arrest is a moment in your life, and at some point it will be behind you. The question is whether you will find yourself in this situation again, or whether you will let it be a teaching moment. As a point of inspiration and encouragement, we’ve hunted down a few real-life stories of people who allowed their DUI arrest to become a turning point in their lives.
Second Time’s a Charm
As the York Daily Record reports, Andrew Lehigh’s first DUI came after a long pattern of bad choices. Lehigh says he started drinking when he joined the Navy at age 19. With his first DUI arrest at age 23, he went into an accelerated rehabilitative disposition program (ARD), temporarily losing his license and doing community service in exchange for having the DUI cleared from his record.
But he had not yet hit bottom. Before completing the ARD, program he was arrested again for DUI, this time due to suspected marijuana use. The second offense cost him removal from the ARD program, a $10,000 fine, six months of house arrest and revocation of his license for four years—plus two DUIs on his permanent record. That event proved a turning point for Lehigh. He soon realized his destructive pattern would only continue if he didn’t take charge of his life. He bought a bike to get around, began running again, and managed to land a job to support his kids despite his criminal record. Today, he works as a personal trainer and offers free fitness classes at a local gym, and one day hopes to run for mayor.
From Prison to Addiction Therapist
As Robert Veeder writes in HuffPost, he didn’t even think he was intoxicated when he got behind the wheel on November 1, 2003, even though he’d been indulging periodically throughout the day. But when he came upon a crowd gathered at a previous accident scene on the highway that night, he didn’t have the reflexes to stop in time.
“I wasn’t speeding,” he says. “I wasn’t weaving. My van crested a hill and there was a crowd of people standing in front of me. I tried to stop, but I was too slow ― too intoxicated ― to react appropriately. What happened next was a horror show.”
When it was over, six people were dead, and two seriously injured.
As a result of that fateful night, Veeder would spend most of his 30s in state prison for vehicular manslaughter—although as he tells it, “prison was the easy part.” Even more horrible to him was living was the knowledge that he had cost six innocent people their lives.
Even so, Veeder says prison gave him time to think and reflect, and eventually to come to a point of change. He began volunteering time wrapping presents at holidays and looking for ways to give back even in prison. After his release, he went back to school and earned a degree in health science with a concentration in substance abuse counseling. Now sober for more than 15 years, Veeder is a full-time addiction therapist, married and living a good life. Although he says the pain he caused will never leave him, “I want people to know that not only is there life after sobriety ― there is a great life after sobriety. I know this because I am living it.”
Six Years On, Inspiration out of the Stigma
She has a misdemeanor on her permanent record, she had a snafu with a background check while applying for a job, and she still can’t visit Canada—but six years after her DUI, the blogger of HerEveryCentCounts says her series of posts about getting arrested has generated more response than anything else she has written. The night of her arrest, she says, she was saved from causing harm by a concerned citizen who called the police as she drove off. She barely made it out of the parking lot before getting arrested, and the entire experience cost her a night in jail and about $10,000—but she says is “completely changed my perception of myself (and the seriousness of my alcohol problems), and made a choice to never let that happen again.”
The blogger says one of the most interesting developments about her blog series is her awareness of the link between mental illness and DUI (she admits to having been a depressed binge drinker before being arrested), and how her story has helped others going through a similar experience.
“What has felt good throughout the years,” she writes, “is the emails I get from readers who happen on my blog after getting a DUI – who are depressed and don’t know where to turn. It feels good to know that my story, however unfortunate it is that I have a story to begin with, helps them get through this dark and difficult time. Few people get DUIs without other serious mental health issues going on.”
Now, more than six years on, the blogger says she still drinks on occasion, but never to the point of intoxication—and she never drives if she indulges.
Whether or not a bad decision (or a string of them) led to your recent DUI arrest, the key to a future after DUI is the choices you make moving forward, not the ones you made prior to the arrest—starting with your choice of legal counsel. For an appointment with one of our experienced DUI attorneys, call our offices today.