Interviewer: What are some of the most common misconceptions that people have about being arrested for a DUI?
A Small Percentage of the DUI Arrests Are Subsequent Offenses
Phil Wormdahl: It is a national statistic that essentially between 70 to 80 percent of people who are arrested or charged or convicted of DUI, are first offenders. So the significance of that is only 20 to 30 percent of people who did DUIs are recidivists. That means that only 20 to 30 percent of people did have a DUI before.
Are You Likely to Re-Offend after Receiving Your First DUI?
I think that actually one of the biggest misconceptions about DUI is that the vast majority of people that get a DUI don’t get another DUI. I don’t know why it is, but I think that the public just assumes that most individuals that get DUIs—get DUIs all the time. They assume that they’re heavy drinkers or they have substance abuse problems, or they just chronically make bad choices. There is a stigma, I think, in the public perception with regard to whether or not people who get DUIs are what we would call chronic, heavy drinkers.
If you look at the statistics that perception is actually the exception to the norm. The majority of people who get DUIs really just had a very brief lapse in judgment in a lifestyle that is otherwise very straightforward and normal, and smart, and functional. For a lot of people just the quick wake-up call like, ‘wow, I just made this simple mistake’, it really could happen to anybody.
My client base is comprised of your neighbors. It’s the people you go to church with, it’s your family, and it could really strike anyone, because it’s really easy to just have one too many and end up behind the wheel. And I certainly don’t advocate people drinking too much and then driving and putting themselves and other people in a dangerous situation. I drive, I have family on the road, I certainly don’t want to be exposed to that and I want my family to be safe.
The Vast Majority of Individuals That Receive a DUI Do Not Re-Offend
But it really is an easy mistake to make, and a vast majority of people who make that mistake – they only have to make it once in order to learn not to make it again. And I think that’s really the big misconception. There isn’t the “DUI type of a person.” Most people who get them, they get one and they never do it again.