MONTEREY COUNTY, Calif. - A young man has only been of legal age to drink for two years. Yet 23-year-old Esteban Sanchez of San Jose is being charged with his fifth DUI. In the latest case, he's accused of injuring a pregnant woman during a hit-and-run crash in Morgan Hill, on New Year's Day.
Sanchez is then accused of losing control of his car, crashing into a fire hydrant and leading officers on a chase, until he was caught. This sounds like an extreme case, but it's not the first or the last time something like this will happen because of drinking and driving.
This case hits close to home for a victim and survivor of a drunk driving accident. We spoke with Chelsie Hill, a young woman from Seaside, who is paralyzed from the waist down after her friend crashed into a tree while driving drunk almost four years ago. Chelsie helped her friend get out of prison early and he's on probation now. She hopes he gets the chance to share their story with others to help people, like Sanchez, from re-offending.
"You know he can't make me just get up and walk again. But I do really wish him the best and I don't think he can really learn from this in prison. I feel like he needs to be out speaking and you know showing kids like what his actions caused," said Chelsie Hill.
Hill said her friend Aaron Corn was sentenced to more than seven years in prison for the crash that put her in a wheelchair. But she thinks there's not enough being done to teach young people the impact of driving drunk. Hill said anyone who's had a DUI before should be required to blow before hitting the gas pedal.
"I'd much rather blow in a breathalyzer than have to bring my wheelchair," Chelsie said.
That's something Senator Jerry Hill of San Mateo said he's pushing at the state level. Right now the state is running a pilot program in Alameda, Sacramento, Los Angeles and Tulare counties, requiring an ignition interlock device for anyone with one or multiple DUIs. But Hill said what's most alarming, is after 10 years, a DUI is wiped clean.
"Because to me a judge should look at your entire record when they try to determine what your punishment should be one, and number two, what treatment you may need," said Senator Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo.
Getting multiple DUI's could suspend your license for 3 to 4 years, and in some cases a judge can take it away for up to 10 years. The good news, most drivers don't re-offend.
"Generally in most cases, when a person gets a DUI, they learn their lesson and they stop driving drunk and kind of walk away from it," Senator Hill said.
For Chelsie, she's hoping that trend will continue.
"You know a lot of people just don't get it and a lot of people think you know, nothings going to happen to them," Chelsie said.
Senator Hill tells us the study will continue through the end of this year. Then he said the plan is to use that information to determine if requiring a breathalyzer to start a car will help save more lives.