Maryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin : April 2006

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MSBA Video Warns High School Students About Dangers of Drunk Driving

~Administrative Law Section vividly depicts perils~

This spring, as high school students think about proms, dates and after-the-prom parties, many will also contemplate the dangers of drinking and driving, thanks to a new MSBA video that realistically portrays the severe – and often deadly – consequences of drunk driving. MSBA's Administrative Law Section, along with Maryland's Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) and Maryland's Judiciary, has produced a powerful video that dramatically shows students the consequences of drinking and driving through the eyes of their peers. As prom time approaches, MSBA's video, capturing the true horror of actual high school students' drunk-driving experiences, will be previewed in high schools across the state to encourage students not to drink and drive. Through this educational video, MSBA hopes to save lives.

Branded D.U.I. features 11 young people who candidly discuss their first (and in many cases second) D.U.I. charges, graphically depicting the accidents they caused and, in two cases, the deaths. The video then traces their subsequent arrest, time in jail, encounter with the court, hearings and sentences and the precise consequences. The hardcore statistics on drinking and driving, graphic pictures of wrecked automobiles from their accidents and actual court scenes threaded throughout the video accentuate the young people's experiences. The true essence of Branded D.U.I. is found in the actual consequences each faced and the severe impact this had on their daily lives as high school students.

All 11 students, representing broad diversity across the state of Maryland, openly convey their surprise at really being arrested, actually sitting in a jail cell, losing their license to drive and, most importantly, what it all means. They no longer had transportation, were unable to engage in sports and other school activities and had to pay court costs, attorney's fees and related expenses. Many feel "branded" for life. The message from Branded D.U.I. is clear: Don't drink and drive – it can happen to you.

Branded D.U.I. delivers this message in a powerful way. "It was embarrassing," one young person admitted. "It was a reality-check," voiced another. "It was a rude awakening; I felt powerless," lamented another. One summed it up well: "It wasn't worth it."

This compelling video is the brainchild of Yvette Diamond, an Administrative Law Judge at OAH and Council member of MSBA's Administrative Law Section. Diamond began noticing more and more young people before her facing D.U.I. charges and grew concerned. She wanted to reach out to these kids and effectively tell them the score, what they can expect if they drink and drive. They do not know what awaits them.

"One thing that prompted us to do a project on underage drinking and driving, besides the quantity of underage kids at hearings, was that it was clear they were not prepared for the consequences of their actions," declares Diamond, the driving force behind this dynamic video. "Many were astonished that they would lose their driver's license, lose their job due to no transportation, lose scholarships, could no longer play sports and had to pay hefty fines."

"Thus, we sought a public education program to educate teens and let them know the consequences they can expect if they choose to drink and drive," states Diamond. "Kids think they are invincible; this shows them they are not. It can happen to them." The kids in the tape realistically impart the consequences, emphasizing what they lost and what they couldn't do. It is a lengthy list.

Diamond found support for her budding concept from OAH, MSBA's Section and Maryland's Judiciary through then-Chief Judge James Vaughn of the District Court. The concept for a video evolved as the best vehicle to reach out to high school students across the state and convey the message. Working with an OAH Committee and the district court, Diamond has targeted every public, private and parochial school in Maryland, as well as colleges. To complement the video, MSBA attorneys, administrative law judges and district court judges have volunteered to serve as presenters, visiting schools to present the tape and answer questions. The goal is to send the video out just as prom time approaches to hopefully save lives.

Diamond played a major role in this entire production. She traveled across the state, interviewing kids and selecting the 11 young people highlighted in the video, all of whom were over the age of 18. She worked closely with Maryland's Judiciary and Maryland Public Television to produce it. The Maryland State Department of Education and the Maryland State Department of Transportation were most supportive, funding the project.

The video took several years to produce, but it is worth the wait. "It took real courage for these kids to participate," Diamond emphasizes. "They talk about it so other kids will learn from their mistakes." Right now it is being viewed by high school students who will hopefully remember its impact on prom night and throughout their lives.

Branded D.U.I. was launched April 9 at a special premiere at Baltimore's National Aquarium, presented by MSBA's Administrative Law Section and the Maryland Office of Administrative Hearings, where it debuted before an audience of lawyers, judges, educators and others community leaders. It is now being sent out to all high schools in Maryland, with the hope of convincing young people not to drink and drive. Volunteer lawyers and judges will accompany the video, presenting it to many schools.

Branded D.U.I. is hitting at prom time not only to convey the dire consequences of drinking and driving, but to explicitly show these kids what they can expect to happen if they do. The message is geared to young drivers so they truly understand the impact on their daily lives. If it saves one life, it is worth it.

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Publications : Bar Bulletin: April 2006

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