I have told clients for a long time that DUII is unique among crimes in that it happens across all socioeconomic levels, it happens to men and women, and across race lines in roughly equal amounts. There is no better evidence of this than the recent arrest of Springfield Oregon Police Detective Marco Espinoza. For more information on the arrest, see this article from the local Register Guard. I’m not going to discuss the facts of Mr. Espinoza’s case in this post (mostly because I don’t know any beyond what’s been said in the paper) but I would like to take a moment to use this case as an example of the stigma surrounding DUII and crimes in general.
First of all, let us remember that Mr. Espinoza is innocent. He has the right, like all of us, to be presumed innocent of any alleged crimes until he is convicted of them in court. Let us not fall into the trap of assuming that police or media are always correct in the first article that the publish. As the old saying goes, the story is on page 1 the retraction is on page 10. I worked on a case recently where the local paper and TV news put out stories of my client threatening a group of people with a knife. Turns out that according to two independent witnesses, that never happened and those charges were eventually dismissed. I looked for any stories on the dismissals and I never found any. So let’s be careful jumping to conclusions.
If Mr. Espinoza is convicted of the DUII he is likely to face some prejudice in his daily life. He will be branded a criminal and possibly a drunk or substance abuser and people will think less of him. That should not necessarily be the case. More so than other types of crimes a DUII conviction represents a mistake, but it should not be a terminal one. I have had more than one client come to me with a DUII charge and tell me what a huge wake up call it was for them. Some of them knew for a while they had a problem with alcohol but never knew it was as bad as it was, and some of them never realized they had a problem. Once you realize you have a problem you can start taking care of it. Everyone of the people who have told me they had a problem has sought help with that problem, either as part of their legal case or not. People who have been through a DUII should not be saddled with that negative stereotype for the rest of their lives.
Time will tell what happens to Mr. Espinoza and his case, but let us remember that we live in a society that presumes people are innocent and if they are proven guilty we believe in second chances.