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Read our series in The Patriot Ledger Nov. 15-18, 2003.
A Patriot Ledger series: Summary | PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3 | UPDATES


No jail for 85% convicted
2nd-time offenders already addicted, experts say
Lawyers advise: Refuse blood-alcohol test
Testing the breathalyzer


Michael Carey
Robert Dixon
Silvio L. Marangiello
Kevin R. McPhee
Mary Seaton
Gerard Sheehan
Mark E. Sullivan


TIMELINE: How Massachusetts drunken driving law has changed
Alcohol's causes and effects
How local and state courts treat repeat drunken drivers
Busiest courts in state for drunken driving arraignments

The cost of drunken driving

Massachusetts fails compared with other states
Death toll from drunken driving

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Fines and jail time
don't make them stop

They are husbands, wives and parents.

They hold down jobs.

Many are law-abiding citizens in every way but one: They drink and drive. Not once, not twice, but again and again and again.
Click here or on thumbnail above to view graphic showing how local and state courts treat repeat drunken drivers. Requires Flash plugin to view.

Fines mean nothing. License revocations, treatment programs and jail only keep them off the road temporarily.

Most are addicted to alcohol, and lose control over how much they will drink as soon as they take their first sip.

It is like falling into a black hole, said one long-time member of Alcoholics Anonymous who has counseled many repeat offenders over the years.

"The drink just takes them," she said. "And they're used to drinking and driving. It's normal; they see the keys and say, 'Let's go.'"

A 1999 study of 126 hardcore drunken driving inmates conducted by Wright State University School of Medicine in Ohio found common traits:

  • Most were alcoholics by age 21.
  • Most had criminal records for other petty crimes, including disorderly conduct.
  • Their average age was 36.
  • Almost all had held full-time jobs.
  • More than 60 percent had managed to avoid court-referred alcohol treatment.

Locally, people who deal with drunken drivers say even a second-time offender likely has an alcohol addiction.

"If you get arrested a second time, there's a good chance you have a problem around alcohol," said Bill Spinks, director of prevention and intervention services at Bay State Community Services in Quincy. "It tells you something: that they really didn't get the message the first time."

Experts suggest that repeat offenders drive drunk hundreds of times before they are caught and are likely to be much drunker when they get behind the wheel than a first-time offender, often testing at double the legal blood-alcohol limit.

That was allegedly the case with Michael Carey of Jamaica Plain.

Police say he borrowed his girlfriend's car in August and, after weaving down the Southeast Expressway, crashed the Volkswagen Jetta into a traffic signal at the Furnace Brook Parkway rotary. He stumbled off, only to be found by police at a nearby car wash. Police said he could barely speak or stand up on his own.

Although it was after 1 a.m., Carey told the arresting officers he thought it was 8 p.m. While he was being booked, he passed out twice.

It was his eighth drunken driving arrest. He was indicted by a grand jury, which gives his case felony status.

"You can't solve this problem by trying to teach people who are addicts to not drink in drive," said Albert Kramer, a retired Quincy District Court judge who was a leader in addressing the issue. "You have to get them in to AA. You have to get them over their denial, which is the toughest part."

What about putting them in jail?

"When people are in jail, the're not driving," said Boston University Sociology Professor Ralph Hingson. "But as a deterrent, the evidence is mixed on that"

Dan DeLeo may be reached via E-mail by .


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