SAN ANTONIO - A rainbow of colors and ribbons with bells attached hang from a wall in the downtown office of Mothers Against Drunk Driving
. The bells are a memorial honoring victims of drunk driving.
Jennifer Northway believes some offenders have received insufficient punishment.
"We are really not sending the message to the community that enough is enough," Northway insisted.
First Assistant District Attorney Cliff Herberg also thinks punishment should be more severe in DWI cases, and hopes some recent lenient sentences are an exception.
Thursday, a jury sentenced 34-year-old Jose Castaneda to ten years probation and a $10,000 dollar fine in a DWI case after the defendant pleaded guilty to causing a fatal crash four years ago. In June, a judge could still order the teacher, who was accused of having a blood alcohol level twice the legal limit, to serve six months in jail.
In July, a judge will also decide the details of a probation sentence for Julie Bronson. The former flight attendant received probation after admitting she drank too much wine before taking two sleeping pills. Bronson had no memory of getting into her car in April 2009. That's when police said she hit neighbors - a mother and two girls in the front yard of their home in the Roger's Ranch subdivision. A toddler at the time, Ava Lopez was seriously injured and is now considered legally blind. Witnesses told investigators Bronson drove away without offering help.
In her defense, the jury was told Ambien could cause 'sleep driving' and other bizarre behavior.
"Even then, the law holds you accountable for your actions. If you read on the back of an Ambien bottle, it tells you don't drink," Herberg stated. "As we've seen in all these cases, they've gotten up and expressed their remorse. But the law demands more than remorse."
Herberg said other states have stricter laws regarding DWI or DUI offense.
Northway agrees and hopes more people will contact MADD to volunteer or to information about how the organization helps victims and their families.