Drunk Driving

DUI Driving

DUI And Your Options

He tends to use the phrase "quite frankly" often. It suits him well because that's what he is--frank, firm, no-nonsense. Edward Emmett O'Farrell, 38, a judge from Tuscarawas County, Ohio, is making a difference in the problem of drunk driving.

"I felt the judicial and legal systems were frustrating the will of the people, expressed over and over again in state legislatures with the passage of one DUI (driving under the influence) law after another," he told a breakfast meeting of the Hermione Weil Alexander Fund Committee to Combat Drugged and Drunk Driving in Atlanta recently.

O'Farrell ran for judge on a drunk-driving platform, was elected, took office and began a revolution simply by enforcing the law. As a result, folks don't mix drinking with driving in Tuscarawas County much anymore. And the county, which had Ohio's highest per capita DUI fatality rate when O'Farrell came to office, reduced DUI fatalities from 21 to 5 in one year.

The only DUI offender aged 18, 19 or 20 to commit a second offense told the judge, "But you didn't catch me behind the wheel of a car." He had been arrested on an interstate highway for walking under the influence! How did O'Farrell do it, this father of three, soon to be four, who once studied to be a Jesuit priest, who drinks but never drinks and drives? For a first DUI offense, judges under Ohio law may impose a minimum sentence of three days in an alcohol-education program to a maximum of six months in jail, a minimum fine of $150 to a maximum $1,000 and may suspend the offender's license for a minimum of 60 days to a maximum of three years. First offenders in O'Farrell's court get 15 days in jail, a $750 fine and their drivers' licenses suspended for six months. If the offender can prove to the judge that he is unable to arrange alternate transportation to and from work (such as riding a bicycle, car-pooling, having a family member drive him, etc.) and if the DUI offense was not associated with an accident, O'Farrell issues an order that permits the offender to drive only to work and back while his license is suspended. An offender gets a new license plate for his car, however, one with a yellow, rather than white, background that signifies that his license has been suspended for a DUI conviction. A yellow tag is all police need to stop the driver anytime to see if he has the judge's order granting driving privileges, to make sure that he is not under the influence of alcohol or drugs and is on a direct route to or from work. (Another family member driving a yellow-tagged car has only to produce a valid driver's license to be on his or her way.) The DUI offender trades in his yellow tag for the standard white one at the end of the suspension.