EVANSVILLE, Ind (WEHT) — When the clock struck twelve, people all around the country rang in the new year with confetti, dancing and alcohol. With so many people celebrating this time of year, there is an increased risk for someone to get behind the wheel while intoxicated.
“Nothing is worth taking the risk to drive drunk,” said Criminal Defense Attorney Shaunda Lynch. Lynch specializes in drunk driving related cases.
“Usually the attorney’s get involved after the fact and there’s already been arrested and someone’s been taken to jail and charged with a DUI. If it’s a first offense it’s going to be a misdemeanor. If you have a prior within 7 years, that’s a new law in Indiana, it used to be 5 years, it’s going to be charged as a felony,” said Lynch.
Indiana State Police report 922 crashes occurred last year on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day and 28 people were arrested for drunk driving. However, law enforcement aren’t the only ones keeping an eye out for impaired drivers.
“There is no reason anyone should drink and drive,” said Bud’s Rockin’ Country Bar & Grill Operations Manager Chad Brady.
Some bars on Franklin Street say they increase their staff and have Evansville Police at their doors as an extra measure of security.
“Our guys at the door are pretty good at taking care of that for us. If someone is too intoxicated, usually the EPD officer will talk to them, we’ll try to get one of their friends or a safe ride home,” said Brady.
(David Shirley, Piston’s Bartender and Head of Security)
“I’ve got guys on the front door and they keep an eye on how they walk, how they talk and if they start heading that way we say hey, why don’t you get an Uber, why don’t you get a Lyft,” said Piston’s head of security David Shirley.
If someone is caught driving under the influence, it can cost them tens of thousands of dollars and up to 15 years in jail if they are involved in a crash which results in a death.
“That system is built and designed because they don’t want people to ever get another DUI god forbid they get one in the first place. There’s nothing easy about it even if you go on the first offenders program, you’re going to get put through the ringer because they want you to be incentivized to never do it again,” said Lynch.
If convicted of a misdemeanor in Indiana, you have to wait 5 years to ask for it to be expunged from your record and 8 years if convicted of a felony. If you kill or harm someone due to driving under the influence, you can never get the incident expunged from your record.
In every state it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle with a BAC of .08 or higher. In a recent study, the CDC found that over 10,000 people died in alcohol related crashes in the U.S. in 2016. Of those accidents involving an alcohol impaired driver, 17% resulted in the death of a child under 14 years old. However, over the past few years authorities in the Tri-State say the number of drunk driving related crashes have actually decreased.
(This story was originally published on December 31, 2019)