An Open Discussion on Losing My Child at the Hands of a Drunk Driver: How Do We Honor the Victims and Prevent More?

It’s often been said children don’t come with instructions.

The same can be said about coping with death or navigating our Government.

I believe it was Kenny Rogers that said he became a “man” when his father passed away.  No matter our chronological age or legal age , as long as our parents breathe we are still a child to someone.

Most of us plan our lives around growing old and watching our children get married and then turn us into grandparents. We make plans for our final days with Wills, and Trusts , Life Insurance and what our children should do when we pass away.

As we watch them grow up we have fears and worries , yet we do our best to keep them safe and teach them about the dangers of the world. When the bridge to adulthood and eighteen candles are placed on a cake we as parents breathe almost a sigh of relief. We did it. Little did I know when my twin daughters turned eighteen it would only be a few short years before I stood in a court room and quoted our thirty-fourth President “There’s no tragedy in life like the death of a child. Things never get back to the way they were.” How often I have said in the past almost two years a child needs us MORE after they turn eighteen.

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December 14, 2011, it was a Wednesday a little after 2p.m. when I received the most horrific call of a parents lifetime. A call that would not only change my life but the lives of my family as well.

My eldest daughter was the caller and I could barely understand her. I managed to understand one of her younger sisters was in ICU. I didn’t know why and at the time I didn’t understand which hospital. All I knew was I needed to get to my daughter and get there FAST.

My eldest son was home and I said to him we need to go, we need to go now. Amber is in the hospital.  So the thirty mile drive began , feeling more like a hundred miles. The calls back and forth trying to figure out which hospital and WHY. I finally knew where , which hospital but I still didn’t know why.

Being the San Fernando Valley part of Los Angeles all kinds of things went through my mind on that drive. Was she at the bank when it was being robbed ? Was she somehow shot in a drive- by ? Never once did I think it was a car accident. Later I would find out in reality it wasn’t an “accident” that took my child’s life , it was a choice.

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We spent almost a week at Northridge Hospital the longest wait I have ever been through. What went on during that week is a book by it’s self. It took over fourteen and a half hours for us to be notified . Even though Amber’s current drivers license was locked in the hospital safe. The CRASH was on what I refer to as the 13th going into the 14th it was 12:15 a.m. so legally December 14 . Fire station 100 responded and it was incident 13 of the day. Amber was sent to the coroner on December 20, 2011 and we were not able to lay her to rest until January 5, 2012.

The person that killed my daughter was not only drunk but under the influence of Methamphetamines and also had traces of THC in his system. He was injured and said he couldn’t recall if he was driving, this after saying he wasn’t driving, even though paramedics removed him from the drivers seat using the jaws of life. This person also had 8 warrants for his arrest and a suspended drivers license for over five years at the time of the crash.

We were told of all kinds of “enhancements” that would add charges and time to the offender’s case. Much of this was idle talk I would later learn. I had to make formal requests and pay fees for the same information the offender got through his Public Defender. The offender had access to information even I couldn’t get and he was aware of her pregnancy before I was. Yes he was told she was with child while I had to read it in her chart.

Our case was pushed through rather fast compared to some in Los Angeles. We were never told of his arraignment so we were not present. My precious daughter was laid to rest January 5, 2012 and her killer was sentenced just one week before her would be 21st birthday. May 24, 2012 we heard the Judge tell the offender he was not a bad person. He was sentenced to 6 years with one year given for good behavior. Little did I know at the time it was in the paperwork he would serve only 50% of his time. Not the 85% we were told he would do. Sadly after delay after delay and excuse after excuse he plead open out of fear the case would be transferred. How someone gets good behavior time when they were in the medical ward and or in a wheelchair is beyond me. How good behavior is given when an inmate contacts the family of the victim and still has access to Facebook is beyond me also. At the end of the day he was only charged with ONE count 191.5. (a) Gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated is the unlawful killing of a human being without malice aforethought, in the driving of a vehicle, where the driving was in violation of Section 23140, 23152,154662_287650984689169_353947833_n or 23153 of the Vehicle Code, and the killing was either the proximate result of the commission of an unlawful act, not amounting to a felony, and with gross negligence, or the proximate result of the commission of a lawful act that might produce death, in an unlawful manner, and with gross negligence.

There were many charges he could have faced and his warrants magically went away. Time served or dismissed.

It’s coming up on the 2 year mark this December and yes he still has an active Facebook.

I have had several meetings over the past over a year, yet I feel I haven’t made much progress.

Senators, Assemblymen, Councilmen even a Congressman I have met with. Sadly little time is actually given and seldom is there any follow up let alone action. I have given them article after article of lenient sentences along with repeat offenders. I have given suggestion after suggestion only to be told ” That will never pass here” or other empty excuses.

old-timey-drunk-guy-mdWe have become a society and a State that has more pity and compassion for the criminal than the victim and the surviving families. With over crowding and AB109 driving under the influence or driving distracted or impaired is of little priority , even though it kills innocent people every day. California is number 2 in deaths per year from DUI crashes , only Texas has more than us. Wyoming has an average of 50 deaths per year yet they are still working on lowering the number.

The number of grieving parents because of a impaired or distracted driver is staggering. The penalties are appalling and show no respect let alone value to life. I have been thrown into an arena I had no idea was so very complicated. Our society still is far too forgiving and accepting of these preventable deaths. These are choices that result in people being killed yet its still treated far too lightly.

Yes inmates have access to Facebook even though it’s “not allowed” . I have a petition online and yes his account was reported to the judge, the A.D.A. a Senator , the prison and others. With no results.

I also have a petition online for awareness because even though “ignorance is no excuse for the law” it seems when it comes to DUI ‘s “Knowledge is key” .

Please click sign my petition to enforce No Access to Facebook in prison and to label Every Bottle and Every Can with a reminder of the perils of DUI.  We can make change!

Did you know that injuring a person in a DUI is a violent crime and killing someone in a DUI is NOT?!

Sad, when given a chance to more seriously address DUI penalties it seems our officials failed us. How does this make sense let alone happen? AB 1462 (Mendoza) Under current law, felony vehicular manslaughter crimes (Penal Code sections 191.5(a), 191.5(b), 192(c)(1), 192(c)(3)) are not violent felonies within the meaning of Penal Code… section 667.5. Consequently, violators of these laws may earn up to 50 percent conduct credits. However, driving under the influence and personally inflicting great bodily injury (Vehicle Code section 23153 with a Penal Code section 12022.7(a) enhancement) is a violent felony within the meaning of Penal Code section 667.5. Therefore, violators of this offense may only earn up to 15 percent conduct credits. Due to this inequity in credits, a drunk driver’s maximum sentence will be less if they kill a victim than if they inflict great bodily injury upon a surviving victim. (THIS IS INSANITY !!!)  I’m finding it’s more than difficult to find anyone who is willing to take on DUI legislature.

While inmates are suing the State and having hunger strikes and making demands, who is remembering the victims?

While a drunk driver who posts a confession on youtube becomes a “hero” and a “celebrity” what about his victim?

Did you know that killing some with a DUI is what’s called a wobbler ? This means a killer can be charged with a felony or a misdemeanor for killing someone. Did you know a convicted offender can get as little as probation for killing someone with a DUI? Did you know offenders can do online classes and victim impact panels?safety-image-dont-drink-drive Did you know offenders even show up to court and required classes drunk?

Did you know a woman who killed a Fireman while she was drunk driving got one year house arrest and is still able to work and drive to and from work?

I’ve come to the conclusion that one of the biggest hurdles is many in office have had DUI’s here are just some http://stopthemaddness.org/pols.html

Please follow what’s going on , as its not good. Public Safety has taken a backseat and our families are at risk.

Anyone who has been affected is more than welcome to join me in my mission. Anyone who wants change so we have a safer place for our families is welcome.

This is the closing of my Victim Impact Statement …

To hear the court warn the defendant “If you do this again and someone dies you will be charged with murder” is like putting a knife in my heart. It makes me feel like my daughter was a practice drill or a learning experience. To be possibly given leniency this time yet a harsher penalty “next time” means another mother might be standing before the court experiencing the same indescribable pain and grief I am.

Amber’s life was not lost, it was taken by someone who made a choice. I made a choice to have a child I named her Amber Rose, like the golden essence of our lives. She was growing up into a talented, loving young lady. In a matter of moments a bad and fatal choice by the defendant took away all those good choices forever.

In the words of our 34 President Dwight Eisenhower:

“There’s no tragedy in life like the death of a child.  Things never get back to the way they were.”

I was born and raised in Southern California. Back in the day when people knew their neighbors and watched out for one another. I have four wonderful children one of which was killed by a drunk driver. I have now become a mom on a mission to spread, awareness, education and hopefully change some of our laws and penalties regarding dangers on our roads. I have connected with too many grieving moms of preventable tragedies through this journey. Hoping to find others locally who wish also to make the much needed changes for safer roads for our families.

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3 Responses to An Open Discussion on Losing My Child at the Hands of a Drunk Driver: How Do We Honor the Victims and Prevent More?

  1. Mary Kay says:

    Thanks for all you are doing.

  2. tina says:

    it is pure evil.. and it is common for victims to be trashed by the systems that protect predators.. victims need equal rights..
    the great church fathers are all about pro life and stopping the use of birth control and condoms, yet they appear to support alcohol, tobacco, crap food and other substances that kill and wound .They protect child rapists with their statute of limitations that gives rapists a free pass to continue once a certain time has passed.. we need to have politicians who aren’t dumbed down on substances and cleavage.. and who understand what has happened to this country and help us change the alcoholic thinking that runs it?

  3. Gabi says:

    I appreciate your willingness to talk so openly about the tragedy your family has suffered, and all you are doing to turn your terrible loss into a force for positive change. Thank you.

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