So, the woman who was driving drunk when she struck my car in San Mateo County in March has been convicted and is to be sentenced next month.
I received a letter in the mail from a parole officer asking whether I was interested in seeking restitution. Victims of violent crimes are entitled to receive money for damages they incurred. That includes medical bills, lost wages and property damage.
Being that neither myself, nor my two friends who were with me that morning were hurt and my car insurance paid for just about everything, I requested to be reimbursed for the rental car deposit and the extra gas it took to fill up a Nissan Maxima versus the cost to fill up my Chevy Aveo had I had it the week it was in the body shop. I’m not sure I’m entitled to that, but it’s worth a try, right?
I’ve never been through anything like this before. I plan to attend her sentencing hearing and tell you all about it after.
It happened March 8, the morning of the time change. My friends and I had spent the evening dancing in San Francisco and eating at a late night Indian restaurant before hitting the road.
It was 3:45 a.m. and I was driving along southbound 101 in the “fast lane” when, suddenly, the cabin of my car lit up, we heard a screeching sound, and then -- boom.
A car had hit us about ¼-mile before the Ralston Avenue exit. It struck the corner of my rear passenger side bumper in a way that changed my car’s direction, sending us toward the median divide.
I corrected our heading, pulled into the center emergency lane and called 911 on my cell. During all this, I caught a glimpse of a darkened shadow with illuminated tail lights, as it spun 180-degrees in a clockwise motion on the freeway, sped off the road, through the bushes and into the soundwall.
It all happened so fast. We were hit in my blind spot. How did she hit us without me seeing her coming in my mirrors? I didn’t get a chance to avoid the crash. What happened?
When I received the collision report from the California Highway Patrol, the officer wrote that the 26-year-old driver was trying to dial on her cell phone when she dropped it. It was when she bent down to pick it up that she lost control of her car and sped toward us. What’s more, she failed the field sobriety test. She was driving while intoxicated.
I later learned that she blew a .12 blood alcohol level on the breathalyzer. The legal limit is .08.
Cost of a DUI
While I wade through the legal process in San Mateo County, DUI convictions in Santa Cruz County carry a hefty price, according to an official in the District Attorney’s office. While each case is handled on a case-by-case basis, on average, someone convicted of DUI should expect to pay a fine of about $2,000, a restitution fine of about $100 and spend three to five days in jail.
Convicted DUI drivers also will be required to pay for and attend a three month DUI program. Failure to complete these classes will result in the loss of license, a violation of probation and a trip back to jail. A six month program is typically assigned to DUI drivers with a blood alcohol level of .15 or more or to those who refuse to blow into an alcohol detecting device.
DUI drivers also will lose their license to drive for 90 days for adults age 21 and up. The penalty is one year for people under 21. There is one disclaimer that goes along with that, though. While a court may say the convicted DUI driver’s privileges have been revoked for 90 days, it is up to the DMV to reissue the license. So, on day 91, convicted DUI drivers cannot simply jump in a car and start driving again. Rather, they must go to the DMV with proof of insurance to try to get their license back. If the driver has prior problems with the DMV, the agency may not allow him or her to drive for a year.
Speaking of car insurance, some insurance companies drop their customers if they’re convicted of a DUI. Others will gladly insure them but for higher rates that could last about five years.
One more thing, DUI convictions stay on the driving record forever.