I woke up to a bright light. Sitting in the back seat, my head fell because the door it leaned on was opened from the outside. I was caught by the back of my brand new sweater and lifted out of the car. Waking up I realized, my arms were cuffed behind my back and I was being escorted to the hospital entrance. I tried to remember if I had been injured in any way, but I felt fine.
My name is Julian Contreras and I graduated from High School in 2004. I was a strong student and graduated with academic honors to include, National Honor Society and Spanish NHS. I was Vice President of the Art Club, an active member of student council and also participated in football, track, and cross-country. My how time flies…
It is now New Years Eve, December 2007 and I lived with a roommate in a newly built 3-bedroom house. I had been working at Sprint for over two years, I had some college under my belt, I just turned 22 and I was soaking up all life had to offer me. Life was great. I was invited to a New Years Eve party down the street from my house. My best friend’s parents were hosting it, so there was sure to be a good mix of family, friends, and neighbors. I had originally planned to do some art and call it an early evening, despite the occasion, but decided to make a quick appearance to kick off what I was hoping would be a great 2008!
After my first alcoholic beverage, I made arrangements to stay the night even though I only lived about 5 minutes away. This is what responsible drinkers do, plan ahead of time to not drink and drive… right? That’s what I thought. The next thing I remember, I was waking up to a police officer with a flashlight. I gave a blood sample at a nearby hospital and then I was immediately transported to the jail downtown.
As I sat on a concrete jail floor, with my ankles shackled together and my head hung low with guilt, I began to reflect on my eventful evening. No matter how hard I tried to remember the events that led up to this, I could not. That part of my memory was completely blank. The last thing I remember was saying “Hi” to my friend Julie. I feared for the severity of my actions and was overcome with emotion and sadness. I later found out I was involved in a drinking and driving accident. The victim was in critical condition and I had not a scratch on me. I immediately said a prayer. I have prayed for him every day since then.
I got out of jail with multiple conditions. I was to report weekly to the pretrial office for drug and alcohol testing. I had an alcohol monitor on my leg for over a year and I still have a breathalyzer in my car. For the testing, the breathalyzer, and the monitor, I was paying $425 a month. It is now January 2010 and I recently plead guilty to intoxication assault. The victim spent a good amount of time in the hospital but is OK now. To this day I don’t know much about him, and as remorseful as I am about what happened, my lawyer has advised me not to contact him. He seeks the maximum sentence. My case is set for sentencing in March of this year. The prosecutor is recommending 8 years in a state prison, a $1,500 fine, and a 2-year driver’s license suspension. For my first drunk driving incident, it’s definitely no slap on the wrist.
Where did I go wrong? In the early morning hours of January 1st, 2008, I got behind the wheel after drinking and my life was changed forever. I can’t help but think I don’t belong in jail with real criminals, but whenever I apply for a new job, I will be looked at as one. I will have a felony on my record and for the rest of my life, that night will not only haunt my dreams, but especially my reality. And even after all the money spent and prison time served, I will never forget that I was not the only one whose life was changed. I will always feel guilty for all of the unfortunate ways I affected the victim’s life. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about him, his family, and everyone else affected by my actions that night.
– Julian C.
San Antonio, TX