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Bay Area Criminal Defense Blog

Do Scared Straight Programs Work for California DUIs?

Posted by Lynn Gorelick | May 12, 2016 | 0 Comments

Scared straight programs are intended to show individuals the dramatic consequences of drunk driving. This could include staging a fake accident scene, having family members talk about losing a loved one, or even a visit to the local morgue, to see the most extreme examples of what can happen after a drunk driving accident. Are scared straight programs an over-the-top attempt at shocking the conscience, or do they really deter impaired driving?

In San Diego, the police department developed the Teen Alcohol Awareness Program (TAAP), to show young drivers the realities of a drunk driving arrest. Officers take teenage drivers through a sobriety checkpoint, take them to the police station, and even show them the process of booking drunk drivers into jail. The young drivers are able to observe real field sobriety checkpoints, and watch as drivers suspected of driving under the influence are arrested, and taken away.

In some cases, high school students are involved in helping to stage mock DUI crash scenes in a presentation to the student body. This often precedes prom, where some students may have their first experience with drinking and driving. Students stage an accident scene, complete with smashed cars, fake blood, and real police and firefighters responding to the scene. Many students find such recreations emotional, especially when they see fellow students covered in blood, or arrested for drunk driving.

After a driver is arrested for drunk driving, the court may also require them to listen to a panel of DUI victims, including hearing from family members who have lost a loved one in a DUI accident. These programs often involve showing shocking photos or videos from accident scenes.

For drivers arrested for a DUI in California, the judge has some discretion to impose additional requirements for drivers. In some cases, this may actually include a trip to the morgue. Thailand has launched a new program that requires some drivers arrested for drunk driving to be sent to work in a hospital morgue. According to one official, “It is a strategy used to make traffic offenders afraid of driving recklessly and driving while they are drunk because they could end up in the same condition. It is aimed to be a deterrent, a way to discourage people.”

Orange County, California may be trying a similar shock approach to drunk driving. Sarah Tuckerman-Cluff, director of the Orange County court referral program explained the purpose of visiting a real morgue. “Let's let them stand over a dead body. Let's let them smell the formaldehyde. Let's let them hold a few organs, and let's hear the story about these people and how they were killed at the hands of a drunk driver.”

There is not a lot of nationwide information on the success rates of scared straight programs. However, individual counties and localities with such programs indicate the rate of recidivism from those who go through these programs is significantly lower than that of drivers who do not go through scared straight programs.

If a loved one is arrested on suspicion drinking and driving, contact a DUI defense lawyer who has dedicated their legal career to defending people facing DUI charges in the East Bay. With over 30 years of experience, Lynn Gorelick understands how a conviction can affect your future, and how to fight to keep a conviction off your record. If you are facing charges of driving under the influence, contact the local East Bay DUI defense attorney who understands that you do not have to plead guilty just because you were arrested.

About the Author

Lynn Gorelick

Lynn Gorelick has been an attorney for 30 years. She is the Attorney Lynn Gorelick is the President of the California DUI Lawyers Association and a Faculty and Sustaining member of the National College of DUI Defense.

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