The true cost of a DUI


Photo by Matt Hafley.

Rachel Jones

Editor’s note: The names of the two students who received DUIs were changed upon their request to remain anonymous.

John Doe spent July 4, 2006 with some friends at a bar in Tuscarawas County. Although he had been drinking, he decided to get behind the wheel.

But he didn’t get very far.

“The cops were kind of watching, so I made it about a mile,” Doe explained. “They cited me for speed, which I think I was going 25 (mph) in a 55 (mph zone). I was pretty drunk at the time.”

After failing to follow a flashlight with his eyes, Doe was taken to jail to be charged.

He filled out the necessary paperwork and called his mother for a ride home.

But a DUI, also referred to as an OVI (operating a vehicle impaired), does not end after the handcuffs come off.

“Even if students turn their lives around, that record follows them,” said Hobson Hamilton, assistant director of Career Services. “They can’t get away.”

The arrest

Officer Miguel Witt of the Kent State Campus Police said the campus doesn’t have sobriety checkpoints, so campus police officers are always looking for potential impaired drivers.

“For whatever reason we pull someone over – for speed or anything – and we start talking and we can smell that they’ve been drinking or their speech is slurred or they look drunk, we do our standard or field sobriety test,” Witt said.

John Smith said he had stopped drinking for a few hours before he decided to go “see a lady friend” in August 2011. He got pulled over for going 41 mph in a 35 mph zone.

After the common questions about speed, license and registration, Smith was asked about his alcohol consumption that night and then told to step out of his car.

The Kent City Police officer told him to stand on one foot with his hands at his side and count to 30. He then had to walk the line.

“You can pass (those tests) if you’re hammered,” Smith said. “What got me was the eye test. I had to follow a pen with my eyes. You can’t fake that.”

The officer had Smith’s car towed and drove him down to the station.

“You get put in handcuffs and put in the back of a police car – like the stuff you see in movies,” Witt said. “You get brought up to our station, and we’ll do probably an hour of paperwork.”

Ordered to court

Doe said the court date for his arraignment felt like going to traffic court for a speeding ticket.

“I didn’t get a lawyer or anything,” Doe said. “I went in there and pled no contest.”

The judge ordered the mandatory minimum, but with a blood alcohol level of .201 on the night of his arrest, Doe received a $1,000 fine, six days in jail, six months without a license and 20 days of community service.

“The magistrate said, ‘With a blood alcohol level like that, I’m surprised you could stand, let alone drive a car.”

Laura McCullough, the assignment commissioner at Kent Municipal Courts, said the court sees anywhere from four to eight students per week with DUI charges.

That number is not consistent throughout the year because most students aren’t on campus during breaks.

The fines

Smith hasn’t been to his court date for his August 2011 charge, but he did go through the system after his first DUI in February 2010.

“After they did a hearing to find what I was guilty of, they made me pay a fine,” Smith said. “My first fine was $400, and I lost my license for a year. You have to pay court costs, too, and those are usually $75.”

Doe, who received a second DUI six months after his first, said his fines plus court costs for both charges were about $1,500. He hired a lawyer for his second charge, which cost about $600.

Witt said a DUI charge also puts six points on a license. Twelve points is cause for license suspension, which both Doe and Smith have experienced.

“Completing the DUI School will take two points off your license,” McCullough said. “It’s 72 hours long and costs $350.”

Even without driving privileges, Smith said his car insurance went from $50 to $100 because he is considered a liability.

Doe experienced a similar spike in costs.

“My car insurance just now, five years after, is starting to come down to be less than my car payment,” Doe said.

The second time around

Nervous about starting his jail sentence the next day, Doe went to the bar with some friends to relax.

His friends ended up getting into a fight, and the cops were called. Doe tried to flee the scene but was pulled over and charged with a second DUI.

“The first one you can shrug off like, ‘Oh, I made a mistake,’” Doe said. “But when you get two in six months, it’s like, ‘Whoa. There’s a bit of a problem here.’”

On top of his previous six-day jail sentence, Doe was sentenced to five more days in jail and 18 days on house arrest. He was also sentenced to an intensive outpatient therapy for eight months.

“It was just people with substance abuse problems helping each other out, talking about it and trying to stay clean,” Doe said of the therapy.

For Smith, a second offense meant a new accessory: a SCRAM bracelet.

SCRAM (Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor) bracelets are smaller than a deck of cards and worn on the offender’s ankle. They read sweat vapor to determine if there is alcohol in the wearer’s body.

“According to my lawyer, most judges in Portage County make you keep it on until the case is closed,” Smith explained. “If you drink with it on, they can put you in jail until the case is over.”

He had to pay a $140 installation fee to have the bracelet activated and put on. He pays $8 a day to wear it and goes every week to get his data updated to ensure he hasn’t been drinking.

McCullough said some offenders are given ignition interlock, which is basically a breathalyzer hooked up to the ignition. The vehicle will not start unless the certain limit is blown.


After a DUI charge, Witt said DUI offenders can ask for written privileges to drive to work or school, but a yellow license plate with red letters must be placed on the car.

Smith said with work and school, he needs to be able to drive around campus and will fight for his driving privileges.

But Doe said he didn’t trust himself enough to start driving again.

He relied on other people for rides for a while, but when they got tired of it, Doe moved into a motel until he found a place to stay that was close enough to walk to work – close being 1 ½ miles.

“It really brought about a really rough time in my life,” he said.

Academic actions

The Office of Judicial Affairs often conducts hearing panels for students who are charged with offenses on campus, including DUIs.

“We don’t have a one-size-fits-all sanctioning model,” said Todd Kamenash, director of student conduct. “We really look at the whole person.”

The police department notifies the Office of Student Conduct of any DUI charges on campus, and a hearing panel is set up to try the case.

Each hearing panel includes two faculty members and one student, who have all been trained by the Office of Student Conduct.

“I don’t have an exact number of DUI cases,” Kamenash said. “But last year we had 396 lower level hearings and 227 hearing panels.

Thirty-two percent of those hearings involved alcohol; five percent involved laws, and less than three percent involved impaired driving, he said.

Kamenash said the hearing can result in anything from a minimal warning to probation to separation from the university.

Fines are also issued – with the maximum being $200 – and most students with alcohol or drug charges are sentenced to educational or counseling programs, which Kamenash said cost $100.

If found responsible for their charges, students are also charged $30 on their Bursar accounts.

Looking ahead

“Certainly, there are some repercussions toward their careers,” Hamilton said. “Employers are looking for the ideal candidate during screenings, so if someone is a problem before they walk in the door, they will be eliminated.”

Witt said with how tight the economy is today, having a record could be the deciding vote of whether you get a job.

McCullough said it could also determine what kind of job offenders can obtain.

“If you have anything on your record, it can prevent a job, especially if it involves driving a company car,” McCullough said. “You are a bigger liability and have higher insurance.”

A job in the medical or judicial field could also be hard to obtain, as Hampton said a DUI shows poor judgment – something that could cause problems in those fields.

Doe and Smith haven’t experienced any discrimination based on their charges yet, but they said they know they’ll be dealing with the consequences for years to come.

“DUIs are always on your record,” Smith said. “A lot of things will go away after a few years, but DUIs are there forever.”

Contact Rachel Jones at [email protected].