75 Years for DUI Homicide. And It All Could Have Been Avoided.
Last June a 20-year-old Jorge Solis drove his Ford F-350 the wrong way down I-75 near the Fulton-Clayton county line in Georgia when he collided head-on with a small car, killing a man and two children, and paralyzing another small boy.
Solis was drunk and unlicensed at the time of the crash. His blood alcohol concentration was .125, well over the .08 legal limit.
Solis pled guilty, and has just given a sentence of 75 years for, among other crimes, three counts of first-degree vehicular homicide.
The details of the case are heartbreaking, which makes the 75-year sentence appropriate. But there is one detail that makes it even worse: Solis was on probation for DUI at the time of the crash. About three months before that he’d been arrested for impaired driving.
The consequences for that first DUI were a fine, community service, and a year of probation. All of which didn’t prevent the tragedy that came three months later. That’s because they were merely punishments.
What was needed was a public safety measure, and in fact, one exists that might have prevented the crash.
Had Georgia required ignition interlocks for first DUI offenders, as 25 states do, Solis would not have been able to start his truck. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking. More states are recognizing that interlock devices are the only measure that actually prevents a drunk driver from reoffending.
- License suspensions don’t work. As this case proved, anyone can get into a vehicle with or without a license and drive drunk.
- Ignition Interlocks do work. Because they prevent the vehicle from starting, the public is safe from DUI offenders who might otherwise be tempted to repeat their crime.
It’s too late to change what happened in I-75 last June, but it’s not too late to save countless lives in Georgia and in the half of the country that does not yet require all-offender ignition interlock laws for all DUI offenders. Until all DUI offenders are required to use ignition interlocks, innocent lives will be lost, and all the prison terms in the world won’t bring them back.