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STOP DWI Victims’ Impact Panel to take place Saturday at Urban Mission

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Driving while intoxicated offenders face more than just an alcohol-related accident on their conscience; they also face the judicial system as they must suffer legal consequences of their actions.

Jefferson County Judge Kim H. Martusewicz said a person may not intend to cause physical injury or death to someone if they have gotten behind the wheel under the influence of drugs or alcohol, but the choice to drink and drive could result in serious consequences.

“Drunk drivers cause more deaths than any other type of criminal; not crackheads, not potheads or heroin addicts,” he said.

Judge Martusewicz said people who drink and drive are a public safety risk. He will talk about that and the role of law enforcement during the Watertown Urban Mission Bridge Program’s STOP DWI Victims’ Impact Panel at 8:30 a.m. Saturday in the community room at the mission, 247 Factory St. He will sit on the panel with seven families who lost loved ones in a DWI-related vehicle accident, Bridge Program Director Salvatore J. Ciulo and county District Attorney Cindy F. Intschert.

A statement from a woman serving prison time for killing someone in a DWI-related crash will be read.

Ms. Intschert said her role as district attorney is to prosecute people who have allegedly broken the law, including DWI offenders. Her job includes possibly being called to the scene of a DWI accident, meeting with witnesses and families of victims, determining what would be admissible evidenceand attempting to make appropriate recommendations as to what direction the prosecution should take.

She said people need to simply stop and think before they get behind the wheel after drinking alcohol.

“The ripple effect of what that action can have is absolutely horrendous,” Ms. Intschert said. “It goes beyond the family and friends; that impact is felt by those who respond, coworkers, and it’s just widespread.”

The free program is open to the public, although Bridge Program clients and others may be mandated to attend. The Bridge Program is an alternative to incarceration, and its participants have been sentenced to it by a judge for intensive supervision.

Judge Martusewicz said while he’s “very pro-treatment” when it comes to people’s first or second DWI offense, people most likely will face prison time or drug court if their offenses reach numbers three and above.

Saturday’s panel will be taped by WPBS-TV, and a DVD of the broadcast will be made available to show in schools and to organizations, in an effort to reach as many people as possible, according to a mission news release.

Educating people while they’re young about drunk driving and its effects is something Mr. Ciulo has strived for the past several years.

“The panel is intended to show people who might think driving drunk is no big deal that no matter if you’re buzzed or falling over drunk, you put yourself at risk and others,” he said in the news release. “These families are suffering because someone they loved was killed by an irresponsible choice, and we want to help everyone make the responsible choice to never get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle if they’ve been drinking alcohol.”

Light refreshments will be available during the panel discussion, and donations to support the Bridge Program will also be accepted.

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