On Tuesday July 10, 2012 at 7:48 pm, 47-year-old highway worker Gregory A. Priest of Salem was struck and killed by a drunk driver. Priest was on foot, placing construction warning signs on South New Era Road near South Haines Road, north of Canby when he was run down by 40-year-old Bruce Dancer, of Aurora. Dancer was arrested and booked in Clackamas County Jail on Duii Charges, but was released the following day. He was cited to appear in court August 9, 20012 to face the drunk driving charge. According to Sgt. Adam Phillips, spokesman for the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office, additional charges may be filed.
There is very little question that Dancer will face additional charges on this case. Clackamas CountySheriff’s Office should have charged him with Manslaughter at the time of the arrest and held him incustody. At the time of the incident it was still daylight and Dancer was entering a construction zone. Unless the victim in this case jumped in front of Dancer’s car, he should face Manslaughter charges. Manslaughter II is the reckless killing of another human being. Anytime someone drives under the influence they are aware of and consciously disregarding a substantial and unjustifiable risk that they may crash and injure or kill another. When that comes to fruition, and the driving can be said to be deficient in some manner due to intoxication, the driver is guilty of Manslaughter II. If in addition to being reckless, the driver manifests extreme indifference to the value of human life (by driving at extreme speeds, running lights, etc.), the driver is guilty of Manslaughter
I. One commenter to the Oregonian article indicated that if drivers view the risks involved with drinking and driving weren’t worth it, they may choose not to get behind the wheel. In my experience, the penalties for crimes such as Duii hold very little deterrent effect, regardless of how onerous they are. I doubt Dancer thought at all about the fact that a conviction for Duii carries a two day jail sentence, a $1000 fine, a mandatory one year license suspension, mandatory alcohol treatment and is a conviction that cannot be expunged from his record.
Dancer was likely aware that if he injured or killed someone he would face particularly onerous criminal penalties (Manslaughter I carries a mandatory minimum 120 months under Measure II; Manslaughter II carries a mandatory minimum 70 months), yet this did not seem to deter him. Additionally, most people know that if they injure or kill someone when driving drunk they are likely to be sued by a personal injury attorney for the injuries they caused or for wrongful death.
No matter what the penalty, I doubt Dancer or most others who choose to drink and drive would takeit into account prior to getting behind the wheel. The people that would take that into account already do. Most, like Dancer, just play the odds that they will not be caught or kill anyone. Oftentimes, it is not until one is arrested or kills someone that one truly contemplates the tragic consequences that all too often result from driving under the influence.