Students at Hamilton Union High School had the rare opportunity to observe two actual DUI sentencing hearings at the school on March 12.
In collaboration with the Glenn County Office of Education’s Friday Night Live program, the Glenn County Superior Court conducted the hearing at the high school campus – an official courtroom was set up in the gymnasium.
Real DUI Court in Schools is a program designed to teach students the consequences of driving while under the influence.
April Hine, Glenn County Friday Night Live coordinator for the Glenn County Office of Education, said they have done this program locally for about eight to 10 years – however it’s not always done every school year.
Students had the opportunity to observe the official court sentencing of two DUI defendants – one of which was a felony case involving alcohol.
Hine said the first half hour of the event was set up like an official sentencing, just at the high school gym rather than in an official courtroom.
Glenn County Superior Court Judge Alicia Ekland held court in the gym.
Once court was adjourned, Hine said the deputy district attorney addressed the student body and the sheriff gave a presentation as well.
He said the students had a lot of questions as well – such as why there was no need for a jury trial and about the court recorder’s job since they hadn’t seen someone do that before.
“They also got to hear from both defendants who had great messages about not doing this and how it hurt their life and impacted their family,” Hine said.
She said the defendants have to agreed to participate in the event.
She said it shows the students and community the consequences for drinking and driving.
She said the event pairs well with “Every 15 Minutes” – which is a program funded by the California Highway Patrol. The event includes a simulated crash scene and an assembly.
“They know it’s fake but this is real life,” Hine said. “... Our goal is really to show the impact to students. That their behavior has consequences.”
Friday Night Live is the leading DUI prevention program for Glenn County, according to the press release. The program has operated in the county for more than 30 years and continues to provide local youth leadership opportunities in a safe and healthy student-led environment.
At the end of the event, Friday Night Live gave students an opportunity to take “Casey’s Pledge” – for which they pledge not to drink and drive or get into the car of a drunk driver.
“I feel this is a unique opportunity to show students the real-world consequences of making the poor choice of getting behind the wheel of a vehicle after having consumed alcohol and/or drugs,” said Judge Donald Cole Byrd, Glenn County Superior Court presiding judge, who helped coordinate the event, in the press release. “I want them to realize the long-term effects of a DUI conviction on victims, their communities and themselves. If this program can change the conduct of just one student and prevent them from driving while impaired, thereby endangering themselves and the lives and safety of the innocent public, then this is a successful endeavor.”