Wednesday, April 29, 2009

MADD Victim Impact Panels

As an attorney, I tend to be inquisitive in nature. In an effort to provide the best possible service for my clients, I try to take a well rounded approach to law. Like a method actor who immerses themselves in a role, I often take an added step in the service of my clients. I am the Robert DeNiro of the legal world. A method lawyer. OK, maybe that is just a bit tongue in cheek, but I do make an effort to try to get some insight into what the client is going through. I have visited prisons and asked inmates questions regarding their experiences. I have accompanied clients to probation hearings. Last night, I attended attended a Victim Impact Panel with a client. The program, sponsored by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), is being used increasingly by Connecticut judges presiding over DUI cases. As a criminal defense attorney, many of my clients have taken part in the program. I wanted to see it for myself. Judges presiding over DWI cases have teamed with community groups to develop victim impact panels as an additional component of sentencing. In a nutshell the Victim Impact Panel is usually a program that includes speakers who have been seriously injured, or who have lost a loved love as a result of the actions of a drunk driver. Offenders are ordered to attend the panels as a condition of their probation with the hope that they will smarten up and not offend again. I attended the program in Wethersfield. My first reaction was shock. The line of drunk driving offenders extended out of the program facility into the parking lot. There were easily over 200 people attending that week's program. The room was filled to capacity. As I entered the facility, I walked by a stern faced member of Wethersfield's finest. I explained quickly that I wasn't an offender but an attorney. The sneer deepened. As I waited in line, I could observe people from all walks of life. Grandmothers, high school kids, and a few guys who looked like they showed up after having a few. As we were ushered in, we were directed not to leave the room and to show respect for the speakers. We then began to watch a rock video about a young girl killed in an auto accident with the crooning rock star proclaiming "How could this happen to me?" Not bad so far. The song was kinda catchy. Next, we were presented with a slide show of statistics and photos of wrecked cars and an injured bloody foot. It made some in the room a little uneasy, but still bareable. I've seen worse on ER. The moderator commented that their organization wanted to increase the penalties for first time offenders including requiring devices to be attached to their vehicles to prevent driving drunk. Finally, about an hour into the program, a mother strode to the podium. The screen switched to a picture of her son, a young guy in his early 20s. She told the crowd about her son and the night he died as a passenger of a drunk driver. As she spoke, I noticed many audience participants looking away from the photo. She was followed by another mother who spoke of her 15 year old daughter killed by a drunk driving school teacher. Photos included baby pictures as she spoke of her daughter's aspirations. Many participants began to cry when she reflected that her granddaughter was born at the same hour and minute that her daughter died. One participant left the room, visibly distraught. The final speaker was the program moderator. We were surprised to learn that she had actually served time for manslaughter. She killed her best friend while driving drunk. The program costs $75 for participants and $25 for guests. It is an excellent program for parents of young drivers. I recommend attending at least one.

4 comments:

Nicholas Sullivan said...

I would like to thank you for sharing your thoughts and time into the stuff you post!! Thumbs up
Personal Injury Attorney Houston

Jonathan said...

I believe MADD uses actors in many of the impact panels! My experience was not anything like yours. The slide show was moving but the woman who told her story was like a bad actress! I know people who have lost people close in tragic ways and never experienced anything like I did when I heard this woman tell her story! I felt duped, my intelligence was insulted

M.Barcadero said...

Seems typical to the large groups I have attended in Reno (NNDUI) and Las Vegas (StopDUI). Oh, the stories I could tell

M.Barcadero said...

Seems typical to the large groups I have attended in Reno (NNDUI) and Las Vegas (StopDUI). Oh, the stories I could tell