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Dana Stone is 46. She is a caring mother who shares custody of her 10-year-old son with her ex-husband, an attorney. She lives in a nicely appointed home in a quiet development in Folsom. She has many friends. She has a good job as a worker’s compensation claims supervisor. She has a longhaired Chihuahua named Sophia.
She could be just about any middle-aged suburbanite.
She could be you.
On a warm night in October 2007, Stone went out with a girlfriend for dinner and drinks. Later that night, she crashed her 2007 C230 Mercedes into a parked truck. Tests revealed her blood-alcohol content to be over the legal limit. She was arrested for driving under the influence and spent the night in the city jail.
The arrest and its aftermath were humiliating and financially devastating. Stone was placed on “hard suspension,” meaning she lost her driver’s license for 30 days. She had to hire an attorney and tell her employer about her arrest. She was required to attend DUI “school” and do community service.
Her life was altered in profound ways. “The first six months, seriously, I felt like a criminal,” says Stone. “I started feeling embarrassed to be around my core group of friends that I’ve had for 20 years.”
While others often hide their experiences, Stone has allowed her story to be told here in the hope that it will serve as a cautionary tale. “DUI isn’t about guys sitting in seedy little bars all day long,” she says. “It’s about working people going to happy hour. A cop is behind you. Your taillight is out. You’re getting pulled over.”
This story is in her own words.
One of my friends was going through a divorce and was just starting to get out again. So I suggested we go to dinner and maybe [get] a couple of drinks. I picked her up at home. She lives approximately a mile away from Old Town Folsom and approximately another mile away from me. We went to Pachanga, shared a bottle of wine, had dinner, and afterward walked down Sutter Street to Scarlet’s and had a couple more drinks there.
I felt good but I certainly didn’t feel drunk. When it was time to leave at 11 p.m., I drove my friend back to her house. We sat in her car and chatted.
The details of our chat are foggy. She asked if I was OK to drive or if I wanted to come in. I told her I was fine and that I needed to get home to my dog. And I had things to take care of the next day. It was Friday night. I wanted to wake up in my own bed on Saturday morning.
After I left my friend’s house, I swerved and hit a truck parked on the side of the road. The impact was so severe it startled me and I was unclear as to what happened. The next thing I know, the person whose car I hit (an off-duty police officer) was running out of his house with the telephone, calling 911. He was yelling at me, “What are you doing? You just hit my truck!”
I’m thinking, “My God—I did?” I mean, I knew I did. But at that point, you’re just kind of in shock. I hit the truck so hard it totaled my Mercedes. Then the police came. They wanted to give me the field sobriety test. And I said, “You know what? Obviously, I’m over the legal limit. Let’s skip it.” They basically handcuffed me, read me my rights, arrested me, put me in the back of the patrol car and took me to (Sacramento’s downtown) jail.
(Before they went to the jail, the police gave Stone the choice between a breath test and a blood test to determine her blood alcohol content. She opted for the blood test and was taken to a hospital, where it was drawn. A doctor also looked at her knee, which was injured in the crash.)
There were probably 15 to 20 other women who were in the holding cell as well. Some were either just over the legal limit or completely intoxicated. There were also some women who had been arrested for prostitution or drugs. It was not just drunk drivers. It was horrible. They have two benches, a toilet and phone. The cell is freezing. I think they want people to sober up, so they turn the air on super high. It was in October that I got my DUI, so it was still kind of nice outside: tank-top weather. When I was arrested, I was wearing sandals, a tank top, light hooded sweatshirt and capri pants. They took my shoes, personal items, sweat shirt and belt. I sat for 15 hours in the cell, freezing.
Women were sitting on benches and on the filthy floor. Some were standing. One gal was a correctional officer, and she had gotten arrested and was crying because she was afraid she was going to lose her job when they found out. Another gal was arrested after her 30-year class reunion and sat in the cell with her long, elegant evening gown on. The reality of the situation starts hitting you and it’s scary. I spent a lot of time crying. Freezing and crying.
Fast-forward to the next day at approximately 2 in the afternoon. The door to the cell was unlocked and we were told to line up facing a cement wall. I stood there barefoot and freezing, facing the cement wall, waiting for my name to be called. We were called by our last name and given a brown paper bag with an inventory sheet stapled to the front. It was my personal items.
I was so humiliated and disgusted with myself. I couldn’t make sense of the night before and what had come to pass. I tried to find my bar receipt because I didn’t think I had drunk that much. The receipt was gone. I called my ex-husband, who is an attorney, and said through the tears, “I got a DUI and I went to jail.” He said, “It could happen to anybody, Dana.” Then we were told to follow in a single-file line out of the locked doors onto the street, where I sat and waited for a ride (from a girlfriend).
I cried more as the severity of the situation was setting in. My car was towed away at the scene of the accident and impounded. I had to start figuring all this stuff out. How do I get my car? Where is my car? I was starting to piece together what happened and go over and over it in my head. And I just felt like the biggest loser ever.
I work for a company in Rancho Cordova. When you’re on the 30-day hard suspension, you can’t drive to and from work at all. You have to get a ride. There are no excuses. After the 30-day hard suspension, you can apply to have your license reinstated on a provisional basis: to and from work and to and from your “treatment program,” as they call it. The treatment program is the DUI school you are required to attend.
I told my boss because I was having to take time off to get all these things arranged and because I was afraid of how there were going to be complications with the 30-day blackout period where I couldn’t drive. If I had a business meeting out of town, there was no way I could drive there. I had to tell her, which was horribly humiliating, too. I had been at my job probably two months when I got that DUI. I had been at a competitor for 14 years previously, and she brought me over from there. So I’m thinking, “Oh, my gosh, she’s going to regret her decision to bring me over.” But she was really supportive.
I hired an attorney (on the advice of her ex-husband). He said, because of the accident, I would have to do “work project time” and it would be most likely more than just a weekend. As it turned out, I had to do 10 days of community service picking up trash at Cordova High School. And that was really scary, too. It’s not just people who get DUIs who go there. You could be working next to someone who is there for check forgery, drug possession or sales, domestic violence, theft or multiple DUI offenses. Every Saturday, you’re spending all day with these people. You’re eating lunch with them and talking to them. Those were my new friends for my 10-week sentence.
I started feeling that since I was spending every weekend at work project, I was going to make the best of that. So I started organizing and having potlucks on my work project days. I’d say, “OK, everybody, next Saturday we all have to bring something to share!” My friends started calling me “the Martha Stewart of work project.”
We had to be there at 7 in the morning, put on the orange vest, line up for roll call and work until 3 in the afternoon. It was very hard financially for me. I had to pay $40 per day to do the work project and then hire a baby sitter on the Saturdays my son was with me.
The financial devastation of a DUI is unbelievable. My attorney was $3,000. The fine for the DUI was $2,200. DUI school was approximately $900. Work project was $400. I lost the down payment on the car I bought two months prior to the DUI and had to put another down payment on another car. The two of those combined was probably $8,000. I’ve probably already spent out of my pocket $13,000. Now I don’t have any savings. Believe me, it’s gone.
(Although Stone didn’t want to tell her son about the arrest, she eventually told him and answered his questions about her absence on Saturday work project days.)
I said, “You know what? Mommy got in an accident.” And he said, “What happened?” I said I was drinking wine with [a friend] and I drank too much and I got in an accident. I wasn’t paying attention. And that’s what happens when you drink and drive. You can’t drink and drive. So, of course, he was concerned.
Another part of my sentence was that I had to go to a Mothers Against Drunk Driving meeting. That’s a two-hour meeting where they stand there and talk about their loved ones that have been hit by drunk drivers. All the audience is DUI offenders. They speak to 1,000 people a week. And that is just one location—there are several other locations. So that tells you just how many people are caught for drinking and driving. It is really sad and moving. You think, that could have been me. I could have killed somebody. Or that could have been my kid killed.
During my DUI school that I attended every Wednesday evening for six months, I ended up meeting real estate agents, an environmental chemist, nurses, students, bartenders, CEOs. DUI is not confined to the 20-year-old-party-downtown crowd. It’s a lot of older, successful businesswomen and men. Two glasses of wine and you’re blowing a .08. I bought a Breathalyzer because I wanted to see. One glass of red wine is a .03.
I will not drink and drive ever again. I won’t. I make my friends drive—and not drunk, either. If I’m in the car with somebody who’s drunk that’s driving, I will get another DUI. That’s because I’m on informal probation for three years. It’s zero tolerance.
I was at a work function [over the summer] and I took a cab from downtown Sacramento to Folsom. I was like, “I got to get out of here.” It cost me $80 to get home. That is much cheaper than a DUI!
Before this DUI, I would go to my girlfriend’s house and take my son and play with the kids all day long. Then we’d have dinner and a couple drinks and I’d drive home. That’s our culture. And that’s OK. But now it’s not OK anymore. I can’t ever do that again. And part of me feels, “How sad—I can’t ever do that again.” And part of me thinks, “How sad that you think it’s sad that you can’t do that again.” I’m feeling deprived that I can’t have drinks or share a bottle of wine and hit the road? What is wrong with that picture?
The only entertainment we really have while raising kids is the friendships we have with other parents or sports activities. So when you want to have a barbecue or a dinner party or whatever—c’mon, we’re social beings—you want to get together with others. And if you’re drinking, you’ve got to drive home. And if you drive home, you risk the chance of getting a DUI.
A lot of people are afraid to say, “I got a DUI.” Maybe this will help. They need to see a face. They need to see it’s not some creep. It’s somebody who’s real and normal. I’m not doing this for my 15 minutes of fame. I’m doing this because I want to help others.
California’s DUI laws are extensive and complex. Here’s a look at what happens when you’re arrested for drunk driving:
If a police officer suspects you of drinking and driving, you will be placed under arrest, handcuffed, searched and taken by patrol car to a field office or jail, where you will be given a chemical test to determine if you’re under the influence. (The legal limit is 0.08 percent blood alcohol content.) After you are seen by a nurse and cleared medically for jail, you’ll be searched, photographed and fingerprinted. You’ll then be placed in a holding cell until you’re released hours later (when you’re sober). Before you leave, you’ll receive a citation and a court date.
There are two types of DUI charges: misdemeanor and felony. Assuming you are 21 or older, if you are convicted of a first-time misdemeanor DUI, you will receive three years’ court probation. The conviction will stay on your record for 10 years. Four DUIs within 10 years is an automatic felony DUI, which comes with stricter penalties. A felony DUI also occurs if you get into a crash and hurt somebody.
With a DUI, you lose your driver’s license for 30 days, followed by a four-month suspension. During the suspension, you can ask the DMV for a restricted license that allows you to drive for work and to and from work. You also must complete DUI classes.
Some other things you should know:
• It’s illegal to have an open container of alcohol in your car, even if the car is parked.
• If you’re driving under the influence with a child in the car, you can be charged with child endangerment—a felony.
• If you’re arrested for DUI, your car may be impounded for up to 90 days at your expense or even sold, with the proceeds going to the city or county.
• Your penalty will be increased if, while driving under the influence, you also were driving recklessly or at a high rate of speed.