You've been arrested for the second or third time for a DUI. You are mad at the police officer for arresting you: you know you didn't have too much to drink. You are mad at yourself for getting into this situation again: you should have use your blinker when entering the left lane. You just feel mad and irritated. But do you feel any kind of remorse? For some of you, the answer may be "no" because you either didn't feel like you were drunk or you actually was not driving while drunk. For others of you, the answer is "yes, of course," but you made a mistake and don't want to be attacked for it because others make the same mistake but don't get caught.
Even if you feel remorse, the court assumes you don't. It thinks to instill a sense of empathy in you, you need some kind of formalized panel of victims to tell you their stories. A victim impact panel (VIP) is a two-hour class you may be ordered to attend after a DUI conviction. You pay a fee to attend this court-ordered program and receive a certificate when you have completed it. Unlike the fines or jail time that may result from a conviction, the official purpose of a DUI victim panel is not to punish, but to educate and promote a sense of empathy.
Victim impact panels are also meant to reduce recidivism and have a sort of DUI deterrent effect by "[helping] DUI and drug offenders caught driving under the influence, [to] realize the impact their decisions have on the lives of those around them. It provides a glimpse into the lives of those affected by DUI accidents, the effects on the family and friends, and the lasting future effects victims live with every day," according to one Georgia-based driving school that offers them. But is this really the case?
Do Victim Impact Panels Serve Their Purpose?
Listening to someone tell his or her story can indeed have an impact on a person's ability to empathize. VIPs, however, may not be the best means to do so. First, it's a fine line between teaching empathy at these panels and having the DUI offender feel shamed and blamed. Second, even if the DUI offender does not feel shamed but feels empathy, will that empathy transform into action?
According to an older but extensive study published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, the answer is no. In fact, the complete opposite may result. According to the study, recidivism does not decrease for either males or females. For females, however, there is an alarming trend. The study reveals that females are more likely to be a repeat DUI offender after attending a VIP.
Essentially, the victim impact panels, though well-intended, may invoke empathy -- thus serving one of its purposes. It does not, however, serve its other purpose to reduce recidivism. In fact, it can increase recidivism rates among women.
Victim Impact Panel as Part of Your Sentence
If a victim impact panel is a condition of your sentence, then you have to attend as a matter of course. To attend helps you avoid any punishments or sanctions the court would level against you if you didn't attend. Keep in mind, however, that you are not to blame for the stories shared by the panel, but you can use their stories to help you make better choices.
VIP attendance means a note on your record that you attended after your DUI conviction, which can help paint the picture that you took responsibility for your actions and are presently aware of their impact. DUI convictions are incredibly stigmatized; you want to do anything you can to curtail the impression of irresponsibility or irreverence to authority that may be assumed when someone who is reviewing your record sees that you have a DUI conviction (which cannot be expunged).
Georgia DUI Attorney
If you have been charged with driving under the influence in Georgia, you are urged to immediately contact an Atlanta DUI attorney to scrutinize your charges and protect your rights. If convicted, you will carry a conviction on your record for the rest of your life and may be ordered to attend a Victim Impact Panel. Your best bet at curbing the consequences of a DUI charge is to begin fighting it right now, by contacting an Atlanta DUI attorney.