DUI with Serious Injury
On August 11, 2019, my client and her friend went to dinner at Aqui Restaurant. They had several “Industrial Swirls” with dinner. My client’s friend drove to the restaurant. When they were walking back to the car, the friend got sick and threw up all over the car. My client put her in the back seat of the car and offered to drive. She first drove to a Walmart to buy some paper towels to clean up the car. Walmart was closed. So my client drove to her own home, where she attempted to clean up the interior of her friend’s car.
My client’s mother suggested that they just stay at their house for the night, but my client was focused on getting her friend home. On the way to the friend’s home, my client lost control of the vehicle that rolled over four times. My client awakened in the hospital and was told that her friend, who had been asleep in the back seat of the car and not wearing a seatbelt, was seriously injured. The friend broke her femur and her pelvis and was restricted to a wheel chair for several months.
I interviewed my client just 3 days after the accident. The trauma of the accident and her friend’s injury was still fresh. She came to her appointment with a friend. She wore a cap pulled down around her ears hiding much of her face. I remember telling her to take off that cap because it was hiding her beautiful face. She tearfully told me what had happened 3 nights earlier. She visited her friend in the hospital every day. She told me the events of the fateful night. She said that she didn’t drink very often. Yet, on that day, she had 3 Industrial Swirls. They each did. Her friend was sick so she offered to drive her home.
I told my client that I wanted her to consider entering a live-in treatment program for alcohol and drugs. She said that she didn’t do drugs. In fact, she rarely drank. She admitted that she smoked marijuana regularly. She didn’t consider herself an alcoholic or an addict. I told her that the most eloquent way to say that she will never drink and drive again is to enter a treatment program. And, I told her of a previous client of mine, who (like her) rarely drank but who was driving down First Street along the light rail when he ran a red light and killed a 19 year old girl who was in the passenger seat of a Honda making a left turn in front of him. He cried for the first 3 weeks of the recovery program and for the first 3 counseling sessions.
I refer about 80% of my clients to counseling and to residential treatment. She nodded her understanding but I could tell she was struggling over whether she was an addict or alcoholic. I told her that I wrote something years earlier that I called, “Zen Question Zen Answer.” And, I recited it to her. She listened deeply. She asked for a copy of it. One of the Zen Questions is: “How do you know if you’re an addict?” The answer is: If you are impatient and procrastinate at the same time. These two character defects should not coexist. If they coexist in you, chances are you are an addict.” I told her that I would like her to go to an NA meeting that night and to introduce herself as a newcomer. She said she would.
I met with my client and with her parents the next day. And we had another 2 hour office appointment. They hired me to represent their daughter. My client went to her first Narcotics Anonymous meeting the night before. It was a “men’s meeting.” She introduced herself as a newcomer. The secretary of the meeting called her to the podium to speak. She tearfully told her story. A man approached her at the end of the meeting and said that he knew a woman, who might be a great sponsor for my client and gave her the phone number. She had already met the person who would become her sponsor and was planning to attend a women’s group meeting later that night.
When next I met my client, she was living in Support Systems Residential Recovery Program. She had contacted a private therapist whom I recommend, Ken Deaver. He would go to the program for at least the first month that she is in the program. Then she would go to his office for counseling after the first month. My client told me that she attended a women’s group Narcotics Anonymous meeting on the day her parents hired me. She introduced herself as a newcomer. And, again she was called to the podium to tell her story. Again, through tears, she told her story. She read “Zen Question Zen Answer” to the women at the meeting. My client said that at the end of the meeting she was surrounded and engulfed by so many women wanting copies of Zen Question Zen Answer and taking pictures of her copy with their cell phones.
Her story had a profound impact upon me. I wrote Zen Question Zen Answer after a two year meditation of “Joy.” I have recited it and shared it over the years with close friends. I had even recited it as a presentation to AA and NA health providers and once at the Palo Alto Buddhist Temple. My client was asking for copies for her to “give away” to her newly found friends.
My client continued to visit her friend in the hospital and at her friend’s home. There were many emotions that she and her friend experienced. But, slowly her friend got better. My client was there when her friend stood for the first time, and when she took her first few steps. And finally, she was there when her friend was able to let go of her crutch and run and dance! Her friend video recorded all of her progress with my client by her side.
Needless to say, my client did incredibly well in the residential treatment program and in the sober living portion of the program. Living with six other women in a home had its challenges. They all became her sisters. My client also benefitted from the private individual counseling with Ken Deaver. Mr. Deaver wrote an in-depth psychological history and evaluation exposing her family and personal struggles, that may have led to her marijuana use, her drinking and to her isolation. My client’s sponsor wrote a very supportive letter as did her academic advisor. My client had taken a leave of absence from San Jose State University. My client wrote a deeply insightful letter to the judge and to probation.
When it came time to discuss settlement of the case, the deputy district attorney said that my client had already done everything that anyone could have asked her to do in mitigation and in her own defense. The judge is aware that he can give her credit for time that she was in residential treatment and is considering alternatives to incarceration like electronic monitoring.
My client is happier than she has been in a long time. She has a deeper understanding and connection with each of her parents. She loves the fellowship of AA and NA. She is widening the circle of her friendships while also maintaining the love and respect of her friend Luz, who was injured in the terrible accident. And, she is back studying at SJSU and working for the City of San Jose.