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by Abigail Van Buren

Woman Learns Costly Lesson When She Drives Home Drunk

DEAR ABBY: Thank you for sending me your 1988 letter from "Paying the Price in Phoenix." It is a powerful letter that I distribute to DUI/DWI defendants who appear before me.

May I suggest that you republish the letter and advise your readers that the average legal fee in such cases has now risen to more than $2,000 in the last 10 years. Driving after a "few" drinks could result in many thousands of dollars in legal, insurance and damage costs, not to mention the potential injuries and deaths. -- JUDGE IRA J. RAAB, DISTRICT COURT, NASSAU COUNTY, N.Y.

DEAR JUDGE RAAB: Glad I could help. I agree, the original letter is worth a reprint:

DEAR ABBY: I am a self-supporting single parent and recently was out on a date with a "fun" guy. He handled his beer just fine. I left him at 1 a.m. to drive home, knowing I'd had enough wine to necessitate caution while driving.

I was concentrating on being a careful driver when a light started to flash behind me. I pulled over, and the lady officer gave me the field sobriety test, read me my rights, took my driver's license and handcuffed my hands behind my back. I remember telling her that I was a professional and asking if I had to go through all that. She said I did.

I was driven to the police station in a police car. The officers were very courteous. I was given a Breathalyzer test. My rating was .13 -- the legal limit is .10. I was fingerprinted and ticketed for DWI. There were no prior traffic violations.

I was not allowed to leave unless someone picked me up. (I didn't want to tell anybody.) I said I'd stay the night, but the officer strongly discouraged it, so I called a friend to pick me up at the police station at 3 a.m. (It was terrible having to call my children and explain why I needed my friend's phone number.)

While I waited, I was locked in a cell like a common criminal. When I arrived home, it was time to go to work. I was required to report my arrest! It was humiliating to tell my work administrator.

I chose to retain an attorney for $1,000 to walk me through the legal process. I was completely without my driver's license for 30 days, and I was allowed to drive only to and from work for the next 60 days. Because the alcohol content was below .15 and there was no previous record, I was given special consideration such as the work permit, and the mandatory time in jail was counted as the time I waited in jail for my ride home. I was lucky.

My car insurance more than doubled for three years, and it will be seven years before I qualify for the less expensive rates. This experience is going to cost me at least $4,000, which I can ill afford. The inconvenience for myself and my children is difficult to handle.

I've had to impose on friends for rides and favors. My parents are disgusted with me, and I don't blame them. The mental stress is hard to handle.

I hope you print this, Abby. Maybe other people will learn from it. -- PAYING THE PRICE IN PHOENIX

DEAR PAYING: Thanks for a letter that may cause people to realize that if they have had "a few" drinks, they should not drive.

Sadly, statistics show that many die tragically and needlessly because the person behind the wheel had "a few."

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