Goodwins change investigations of underage drinking related accidents

By Reggie Ellis

Lynne Goodwin's professional and personal passion of preventing underage drinking and driving left a lasting impression on Attorney General Bill Lockyer.

It was the first time they had met, but Lockyer will never forget hearing the story of how Goodwin's 20-year-old daughter, Casey, was killed by an 18-year-old who was driving with a blood alcohol content twice the legal limit. Active in fighting under-aged drinking as a member of Friday Night Live, Casey was killed in March 2003.

Lockyer was so moved by the story that he decided to form a task force, made Goodwin a member and gave her a greater voice to prevent underage drinking and driving.

Thanks to her efforts, Lockyer and several state law enforcement agencies unveiled a new investigative protocol last week to reduce deaths and injuries caused by under-aged drinking by targeting liquor stores, restaurants and bars that serve alcohol to individuals under the age of 21.

"We have seen too many tragedies involving under-aged drinking, and we all must do our part to prevent them," Lockyer said in a released statement.

"This collaborative effort will ensure that law enforcement agencies investigating alcohol-related deaths and injuries will take steps to determine the source of the alcohol, and that businesses that provide liquor to under-aged drinkers will face prosecution and harsh penalties, including the loss of their liquor licenses."

Target Responsibility for Alcohol Connected Emergencies (TRACE) was developed by the task force as the first step in preventing underage drinking and driving.

"It seemed odd to me that there wasn't already a protocol in place for that," Goodwin said. "When I approached several law enforcement agencies I was surprised to find that there wasn't a uniform procedure for tracking sales to minors [in alcohol related crashes involving youths]."

The task force was charged with developing a protocol for officers investigating alcohol-related incidents involving under-aged drinkers to identify the source of the alcohol.

Under the protocol, law enforcement officers will immediately try to determine where the youths obtained or consumed alcohol prior to the event and notify the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) if the alcohol was purchased or consumed at an ABC-licensed business establishment. If the incident involving under-aged drinkers results in death or injury, ABC will be notified immediately to take the appropriate enforcement action.

The ABC created a policy directive, and will work with law enforcement agencies throughout the state to ensure the TRACE protocol is implemented in all communities.

"ABC looks forward to working with its law enforcement partners to implement TRACE and hold accountable liquor licensees that sell to minors," said ABC Director Jerry R. Jolly.

Members of the task force included representatives of the Attorney General’s Office, Goodwin, ABC, Office of Traffic Safety (OTS), the California Highway Patrol, California Police Chiefs Association California State Sheriffs' Association. and Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

The protocol was announced at the four-day "Teenwork 2004" conference in Santa Clara, attended by more than 800 youths and adults. Teenwork is sponsored by the California Friday Night Live Partnership, Tulare County Office of Education, California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs and OTS.

Lockyer first met Goodwin during a Teenwork Town Hall Meeting at the Tulare Office of Education, where they discussed problems with tracing the source of the alcohol involved in traffic accidents involving under-aged drinkers.

Goodwin's first attempt at legislation to prevent sales of alcohol to minors was AB 216. Called Casey's Law, the bill was introduced by Assemblywoman Wilma Chan (D-Oakland) in April 2003. The focus of the bill was to fine beer and distilled liquor manufacturers equal to the estimated amount they generate from alcohol sales to minors. The estimated $100 million the bill would have raised was earmarked for community-based alcohol youth recovery centers. The bill was defeated twice in the assembly.

In related news:

In response to the high number of drunk driving collisions in recent years, Assemblyman Bill Maze (R-Visalia) introduced three separate bills targeting drunk drivers. Drunk driving is a serious crime throughout the 34th Assembly District and California..

Assembly Bill 1861 failed passage on a party line vote three weeks ago. Democratic members of the committee claimed the bill was too tough on criminals. Following this, Maze amended AB 1861. It now requires repeat DUI offenders to place a public notice in the local paper of the county where the crime was committed and the offender was sentenced. The new version of the AB 1861 will be heard this week in Assembly Public Safety meetings.

A similar situation occurred with AB 1938. The Public Safety Committee failed to pass this extreme drunk driving law on a party line vote claiming it creates a possible Third Strike for people as it creates a felony for anyone driving with a 0.20 BAC (blood alcohol content) or above. Maze has since amended AB 1938, and it now requires as part of sentencing that a person convicted of a DUI who blows a 0.20 BAC or above is required to attend a Victim Impact Panel. A Victim Impact Panel is composed of people who have been victimized by drunk drivers and speak to the offender about their personal experiences. The new version of AB 1938 will be heard this week.

AB 2016 was recently heard in Assembly Public Safety and suffered the same fate as the previous two bills. AB 2016 would have made vehicular manslaughter a serious and violent crime thereby making it part of "Three Strikes." The bill failed passage on a party line vote.

Maze said in a released statement that he will continue to fight to reduce drunk driving and for the victims of these crimes.

"I refuse to give up on this issue. Too many victims' families have come forward and shared their stories with me on how their sons or daughters, husband and wives, mothers and fathers, were handed a life sentence when a person chose to drink and drive. Families don't deserve a life sentence. I will not give up, and I will continue to bring bills in front of the Public Safety committee on this issue. This is a fight worth fighting," Maze said.

"Too many people have fallen victim to drunk drivers and their negligent and irresponsible behavior. It is my sincere hope that the current DUI laws are strengthened."

Assemblyman Maze represents the 34th District, which includes Tulare, Kern, San Bernardino and Inyo counties.

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