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Keep minors out of the car when driving under the influence

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Drinking alcohol was a fun experience for me, with an altered state of conscience when I drank enough. Certainly, alcohol brings out the dark side of many people, and I believe that we would have a better society if everyone who got drunk instead smoked marijuana. However, my own experiences with beer, wine and alcohol were mainly good, except when waking up the next day with a queasy stomach when I drank enough to cause such an effect.

That is not to say that I did not get behind the wheel when feeling happy from alcohol. In fact, sometimes I tell clients that the only difference between them and me is that I did not get caught. Early on in law school, a bell went off telling me not to get behind the wheel at all after having more than just a sip of alcohol, lest I deal with any hassles of being investigated for drunk driving, let alone with having to defend myself in court against a drinking and driving charge. I ultimately cut out alcohol completely, with it not having fit in with my evolving approach to eating, drinking, maintaining a healthy weight, and looking for internal approaches to any conscience-altering rather than taking alcohol for that.

People will keep drinking alcohol and getting behind the wheel. Before the days of automobiles, riding a horse or bicycle under the influence was outlawed, and still is, at least in Maryland.

Riskier than driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs is to have passengers at the time of doing so. The worst kind of passenger to have at the time is a minor, particularly if that leads to a charge not only of driving under the influence but also of felony child endangerment in such a state as Virginia.

Sharon Wood learned that the hard way. The police found her behind the wheel with her two and five-year-old children, after a civilian report of her having driven after having allegedly acted suspiciously. Wood v. Virginia, ___ Va. App. ___ (Nov. 23, 2010), http://www.courts.state.va.us/opinions/opncavwp/2215092.pdf . Wood admitted to having taken alcohol and Ambien; of course, she should have refused to talk, but appaently did not read my words of warning in advance on that. https://katzjustice.com/wp-content/uploads/top10.pdf.

Everything unravelled from there, including Wood’s trying to elude arrest. She was convicted at a bench trial, and today the Virginia Court of Appeals affirmed.

Wood approves of the trial judge’s approach to finding her guilty:

Here, the court properly appraised all the evidence and found that appellant was highly intoxicated on alcohol and Ambien, drove to the parking lot in a semi-conscious, impaired condition, and "did not have the ability to control her motor skills and use her mature judgment." The court concluded, "with all of these circumstances, it seems to me that it’s very clear that [appellant’s] conduct created a probability of injury or death to the children." Thus, while the court commented on appellant’s intent to drive out of the parking lot, the record clearly demonstrates that the court considered all the facts and circumstances surrounding appellant’s behavior and convicted appellant based upon the totality of the circumstances.