DennisBeaverApril 4, 2015 • By Dennis Beaver

“Mr. Beaver,’ the voicemail began, “after reading your story about 24-year-old Tyler, no job, living at home, spoiled by his parents and facing a DUI with a very high blood alcohol level — I just had to get a message to this family, based on my own experience, and hope that you would help me. May I stop by your office? Please call, Greg.”

Requests like that find me reaching for the phone within seconds. The next day, 37-year-old Greg, a college graduate and successful Central Valley building contractor, was in our office, and replied “Three,” to my question, “How many DUIs have you had?”

First DUI 

“I was 17 years old, in Arkansas, Conway County, pulled over leaving a bar and had to do a week in jail — in Little Rock. It was a nightmare! Here I was, with the scariest bunch of people imaginable, all failures. That’s what I thought at first, and then realized that I was no better.

“The experience scared me straight that time and I didn’t drink at all for a few years, until my second DUI — at age 23. It was the outcome of an argument with my wife, getting in my car, going to a bar instead of being with her. I was pulled over and landed in jail.

“They gave me 18 months DUI school, 3 years probation, 3 years SR 22 insanely high insurance and thousands of dollars in fines, but no jail and no work release. The huge cost of this DUI was an effective deterrent — for 12 years — until I began to drink again at age 35.

“That’s when I got my third DUI, and just like before, an argument with my wife, left the house, again went to a bar, pleaded guilty but this time was given one day work release which was a joke. It was a play day. I got to hang out with the firemen!

“Jail scares you”

“But this last DUI changed me because I was older. It sounds corny, but it’s true; I found religion, we are attending church, and I now understand the need of real consequences such as jail, especially for a young, first-time DUI offender, like your readers’ son, Tyler.

[Based on Centers for Disease Control statistics, before that first DUI arrest, such a person has driven impaired by alcohol 87 times.]

“Jail time scares the living heck out of you, and worked well for me when I was 17. If I had gotten a few days of jail for my second DUI, there would not have been a third, I know that,” Greg explained.

“You are a thief”

“When the punishment is too easy — such as work release — you may not really ‘get it.’ Jail is a bad place, a scary place, and that’s what Tyler needs,” he stressed, and then, becoming teary-eyed, added. “I believe something like this saved my son from going in a wrong direction, when he was in high school.”

Over the next few minutes, tears streaming down his face, Greg shared “an event that our son still holds against us today, and yet, we saw no other choice at the time.”

“My son didn’t get to go to his senior prom because he stole a tie from JC Penny’s. The police called and made me pick him up. We didn’t let him go to the prom with his girlfriend because of that and I know that even today he resents me and his mom, because we made the decision together.

“He had become a thief that day, stealing from himself memories and photographs of the prom to share years later. But he has never stolen anything again.

“He is in now the Air Force. He is a great man, married with a baby on the way. And now my 19-year-old step-daughter is following in his footsteps, going into the Air Force, and our two younger boys, 11 and 12, are looking forward to doing the same thing.”

“I made a contract with those two boys that I would give them $1,000 each if they did not touch alcohol until they were 21 and that they would stay focused on things which matter — education, family, and the Lord.

“Never admit that you were the reason he was sent to jail”

“While he understands the reasons, our son is still angry with us for missing his prom. So, Tyler’s parents cannot let him know they were the responsible for his doing a few weekends of real jail time. It’s tough love and probably the only thing that will get his attention,” Greg firmly believes.

We completely agree.

Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.