Columbus, Ohio (PRWEB) March 29, 2006
DUI arrests and alcohol-related accidents continue to rise despite constant revisions to Ohio DUI laws and stiffer penalties. "After a while", says Columbus DUI attorney Brad Koffel "you have to ask yourself, 'Are these laws working?" The answer, according to Koffel, is a resounding "no."
There have been more than 40 amendments to Ohio's DUI code in fewer than 40 years. However, DUI continues to plague our roadways. Mandatory penalties now include jail and yellow "DUI plates" for first offense DUI.
"It's been several years that we've had mandatory jail and yellow license plates for first offense DUI and my practice is busier than ever," exclaims Koffel.
So what is the answer if stiffening the penalties is not the correct mechanism to reduce DUI. According to Koffel, you have to segregate the DUI offenders into three separate categories: high risk, moderate risk, and low risk. Ohio's laws are a lot like all the other states in that DUI is categorized by prior DUI convictions and how high an offender's blood-alcohol content is when he or she is arrested. The drunker you are, the tougher the penalties.
Koffel advocates for a more sensible approach rooted in a mandatory assessment by an inter-disciplinary team consisting of a licensed alcohol / drug counselor and a clinical psychologist.
"There are a host of reasons why an individual abused alcohol and chose to drive. For example, many moderate to high risk offenders suffer from undiagnosed depression and drink to self-medicate," explains Koffel. "These folks need triaged, not slammed into a jail cell." Other offenders need to better understand their personality style and whether or not their personality lends itself to high risk behavior. "The more an offender understands and learns about his or her emotional and mental well-being, the better off society will be in 'curing' DUI," claims Koffel.
Koffel, a DUI defense attorney for 12 years, has represented nearly 7,000 people charged with DUI. "I personally meet and interview every single client that comes to our practice for help." Koffel's firm surveys every client when they come in. "We inquire about family history of alcoholism, mental health treatment, and drinking history. It is astounding to me the large percentage of our clients who are battling depression, panic-anxiety, or other latent private battles that greatly increase the likelihood of abusing alcohol and driving."
Koffel's firm frequently makes referrals to psychologists, alcohol and drug counselors, inpatient facilities and outpatient treatment programs.
"If our legislature would look at DUI as having a mental health component and treat these folks accordingly, we would most certainly reduce the number of DUI cases all across the country."
The concept of 'wellness' needs brought to the criminal courts, especially in DUI cases. "So many of our clients are simply coping or medicating a condition of which they have no idea what it is or how to address it."