Dozens of middle school students at Rio Linda's Preparatory Academy got a sobering look at the consequences of drinking and driving during a special court session in the North Sacramento school's gymnasium this week.
More than 200 middle school students gathered to see an anonymous 20-year old sentenced for crashing his car on Super Bowl Sunday while driving under the influence.
“You are ordered to serve 14 days in the county jail,” said Sacramento Superior Court Judge Curtis Fiorini from behind a covered cafeteria table that served as his official bench. “You have credit time of one day served that will apply to that and you can apply for any of the Sheriff’s work-release for home detention programs to do the rest of the time.”
Judge Fiorini later explained the court process to students, telling them what they could expect if they were to get a DUI and offering alternatives to what he calls a preventable crime.
“I have a deal with my boys – when they were growing up and even now,” Fiorini shared. “They can call me or their Mom, anytime day or night, to get a ride home if they’ve been drinking or been with someone who has been drinking and they won’t get in trouble.
“The gentleman we sentenced today was too afraid to call his parents because he was embarrassed about it and didn’t want to embarrass them.”
Deputy District Attorney Brian Morgan told the students it's better to be embarrassed than to deal with the potential consequences of driving under the influence.
“I will tell you what will happen in Sacramento County, said Morgan to the students. “If you drive your automobile impaired - be it drugs, alcohol, prescription drugs or any combination of those - and kill somebody, you will go to prison.
“I don’t say that to scare you,” Morgan continued. "I say it because it’s a reality.”
The sentencing comes just weeks after a pregnant Rio Linda woman lost her child in a DUI accident a few blocks from the school.
“They’ve seen what driving under the influence can do to people, families and communities,” said teacher’s aide Breta Noguez of the middle-schoolers. “It’s affected all of us.”
The presentation left seventh-grader Alyssa Riley more aware of the consequences of drinking and driving.
“I did not know that you could get community service and probation,” said Riley. “I knew you would go to jail but I didn’t really know for how long.”
Rio Linda's Activities Director Fernando Cruz says the DUI sentencing was one of the most popular and best-attended assemblies the school has ever held.
“You could really see them thinking about it and processing this information,” said Cruz of the students. “Unfortunately, even in middle school, alcohol, drugs, tobacco use and prescription drugs are becoming more of a reality for them.”
Cruz hopes students will get the message that they shouldn't be drinking until they're 21 but says they have the tools to make smart decisions if they find themselves in a situation where they or their driver has had too much to drink.
This week’s event was hosted by Arrive Alive California. CEO Angela Kellogg says it was the 100th DUI Court session held in a school setting and the third in a middle-school.
“We truly believe this is the time kids are actually starting to make decisions for themselves,” said Kellogg. “They have had the education, now they’re starting to apply it.
“Statistically, one in four eight graders are experimenting with alcohol so we already have the dynamic there.”
After 9 years of similar sessions and presentations in the Sacramento area, Kellogg is now working to expand the Real DUI Court in Schools program statewide.