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My mom went out of town about 6 weeks ago, and while she was out of town she got a DUI. Nobody got hurt, she only drove a couple blocks, but she hit a car she didn't see (minor damage), and when she didn't stop the other driver called the cops. This resulted in a DUI. She also refused the mandatory blood test, so her license is to be suspended in two weeks because of that for a minimum of a year.


Some of you may recall the ongoing nightmare I have been through with my mom and her driving. I was literally left with no choice but to wait for a crisis. Well, here we are.


My mom is coming back home Friday. As of now, she hasn't given me permission to talk to her lawyer, but she did give my brother permission, and my brother informed the lawyer that she has dementia.


It's too early to know what kind of penalty she will receive. She is fully aware that in two weeks she will no longer have a license, and she told me she will comply (she has no choice as this will be a criminal suspension).


Anyone else ever deal with something like this?

Regardless of how this turns out you are mistaken if you think a diagnosis of Alzheimer's, or taking away her license, will prevent her from driving. You have confirmation she no longer is capable of driving safely. It is no longer her decision. Disable the car or remove it to a place she cannot find it. Save her life and the lives of innocent others.
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Reply to WVson1
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I should look on the bright side.

Your mother's licence will be taken away. She has been thoroughly shaken and (believe this when you see it, but let's hope anyway) she has agreed to comply. And nobody got hurt.

I'd call that a very fortunate outcome, all round. I suppose it's possible that the court *could* try to make an example of her, but if she is meek and remorseful I can't imagine why they would.

Do NOT give her a hard time about this. Save your breath for when she gets over the shock and decides she'll be fine if she only goes out in daylight and it's not too far...
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worriedinCali Oct 2, 2020
The courts can’t and won’t make an example out of her. Even if she didn’t have dementia, she probably wouldn’t be sentenced to jail over this because of COVID. In this country, you typically lose your license for 1 year minimum and have to pay thousands of dollars in fines (and legal fees). Our DUI laws are too lax in this country.
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It is good to hear from you ExhaustedPiper. Not the reason though. Thank God that nobody was injured.

I think that hiring a companion is a great solution for your situation. I also recommend putting boundaries on your time, just so she doesn't run you ragged with needing to go, go, go.

If she doesn't have one, now is a good time to introduce a grocery list keeper. I use a magnet, pencil on a string and a pad on my fridge, tear and go. This can help keep the items in stock that create a trip to the grocery.

You have done so much for your mom and she has bruised and battered you for all of your caring. Please do not let her or your precious heart make you pay for the consequences of her choices. Keep your boundaries and walk away, hang up or leave if she starts in on you. You matter just as much as her and you DO NOT deserve to be her scratching post.

Stay strong and resolved! Best of luck finding a good companion that makes this new season in your journey the best yet. Great big warm hug!
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ExhaustedPiper Oct 3, 2020
Thank you so much ITR. My mom and I have made progress with boundaries. Lord knows it was not easy, and I have to stay on guard, but still so much better than where I was the first time I posted on this board. I give this group so much credit for helping me assert myself. Amazing people here.

Big hug back to you.
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I faces a similar problem with my 80 year old husband. He was showing early signs of occasional confusion, some memory challenges and other signs of decline. But he was furiously defensive of being in A-1 condition and perfectly capable of driving!!! I couldn’t live with the thought he might kill someone’s child, or parent. So I went to the driveway and emptied one tire on his very old car of air after taking his AAA card from his wallet. He went out to drive several days later, and came in frustrated about the tire. He looked for his AAA card and was frustrated when he couldn’t find it. Decided to take a nap. Same thing a day or so later. When I wasn’t sure I was going to get away with it I opened the hood and disconnected “something”. I don’t even know what it was. Days later he said he was going to drive on one empty tire to the gas station to get it fixed. Car wouldn’t start!!! Came in for another nap! Several months later I contacted the police and they helped me “junk” the car without his signature on the title. He never asked about his car again. I call them “fib let’s”. Tiny white lies that protect the rights and lives of others from someone who can no longer make responsible decisions.
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TouchMatters Oct 6, 2020
Many thanks. This is often what is needed.
Perfect. Others here will benefit greatly from reading your words / experience.
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Mom had a DUI before this one. Is She an alcoholic? I would be looking into detox and rehab for her and if already lined up may serve as mom's sentence.

You are making excuses for not selling mom's car now. She isn't ready yet? Makes no matter, if it is available she will drive it. Next time she may not be so lucky as to not hurt someone or herself. You are POA and it is your responsibility to keep mom and others safe by taking care of the car situation. If mom says she is willing to stop driving, tomorrow she may not remember she said that. Then what?

Sorry if this seems harsh, but the time has come for you to take more responsibility for mom.
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ExhaustedPiper Oct 2, 2020
In what way should I be taking "more responsibility"??

My mom has dementia, but she has not been deemed incompetent to make decisions by any doctor, yet, so what do you think I can force just because I have a POA?

My mom's car is in her name, and I have no legal right to sell it without her permission. Not sure why you are saying I'm making excuses. It's not my decision. Again, my mom has not been deemed incompetent, she still has rights.

Same for any detox or rehab. I'm not responsible for my mother's addictions. I can only control my behavior, and I do not enable her. If a doctor recommends it and she agrees then I'll help facilitate it, but that is it. It's possible that the court will order it, and if they do she will have to comply. Again, this is not MY responsibility.
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Piper, why are you going to be mom's driver?

Please allow her the dignity of taking cabs.
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ExhaustedPiper Oct 1, 2020
Hey Barb, I've been wondering about this, depending on how things seem, if it's safe for her to cab or Uber?

A friend of mine told me she used Uber for her dad and it worked well. She used the app on her phone, he didn't need to do it. I just worry about safety.

I have wondered how others handle this?
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Dementia is not a legal defense. In fact, it is a serious liability. As you know someone with dementia should not be driving. Dementia impairs their judgement, their vision, and their response time. If someone with dementia us involved in an auto accident, whether it's their fault or not, the insurance company may or may not pay the claim. Your mom's situation is unfortuneate, but it'll put an end to her driving. That's a good thing. It's relieves you from being the bad guy. I hope the loss of driving privedges is her only penalty.
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ExhaustedPiper Oct 1, 2020
I know the experience of getting the DUI was traumatizing for her, and basically ended her days of not only driving but her out of state breaks. I knew all of this would come one day I just didn't know when, or how. Last year I tried to get police involved-- and legally I could not stop her.

So in that regard this is a good thing. She can't blame me this time for attempting to take away her driving.

I just don't know what to expect in terms of any other penalties. For example she "left the scene" but according to her she didn't know she hit anything, and her driveway was right down the road. My brother told me that her lawyer did want a copy of her medical report showing her diagnosis. He won't be fighting for her to get her license back, the lawyer is aware that us (the adult kids) do not want her driving and like you said she shouldn't be driving period.

I just don't know what else to expect.
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Piper, I'm really sorry to learn about this situation.     It must be so frustrating, and traumatic for you and your family.

I haven't done any criminal work, or interpretation, in years, and couldn't say whether dementia is a defense w/o doing legal research.    What I would do though is plan to appear in court with your mother (even if she doesn't want you there). 

If her lawyer isn't a criminal lawyer, it's much better to get one.   Law is so segmented by practice area that someone who's not in that field isn't going to be current on practice as well as legal precedents, penalties, etc.

You or your brother can ask for a court-appointed attorney (assuming that she's unable to afford an attorney of her own, or wouldn't agree to consider hiring one with a practice specific to criminal law).   At least that way she has some level of protection.

I think dementia would be an explanation only, as to how the situation arose.    And I'm pretty sure her ability to drive would be legally rescinded, likely permanently, unless she gets substance abuse counseling, and/or a doctor can certify to her ability to drive despite the dementia.

If this is the first offense, and depending on the hearing judge, she may just get off with a reprimand and revoked license, as well as mandatory alcoholic addiction counseling.

This is where an experienced criminal attorney could help mitigate a worse outcome.

Good luck; I hope this event has a side effect of bringing your mother closer to you and your concerns, and give up driving for her sake as well as that of her family.

My father went through the no more driving situation, and given his independence, it wasn't easy.  So I tried to plan supportive happy events whenever I took him somewhere...little surprises, like stopping at his favorite restaurant, or getting a Dairy Queen (a treat for both of us), or visiting a friend, or putting a favorite CD on after we returned, to divert his attention.

Walks in the neighborhood also were a diversion, especially if we met other walkers, and even more especially if they were walking their dogs.   I also tried to get neighbors to bring their dogs over to visit him.
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ExhaustedPiper Oct 1, 2020
Thanks GardenArtist. She has a criminal defense attorney who also specializes in DUI's so I think she is okay on representation. She doesn't know that I know this, but one of her friends up there got a DUI last year. I'm quite certain that my mom is using the same attorney.

So far she has only had the preliminary hearing. My brother was supposed to go and then at the last minute he changed his mind telling me that he didn't need to be there. I was so angry, but then my mom said "everything went okay" and it only took five minutes. She will have to return to PA for sentencing (that is my understanding so far) and I won't be counting on my brother that time. I will go or my sister will go.

I'm not looking forward to being her driver but I will do it. My mom can be really difficult and demanding, so how she takes to getting used to things will depend a lot on her. In the last couple years I've had to work hard to maintain boundaries and we've made progress. This will be an extension of that, so hopefully it goes okay. It sounds like you did pretty well with your dad. I hope I can too.
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To answer the original question, dementia certainly won’t be a defense to a DUI charge. Insanity as a defense to criminal action doesn’t let you go free anyway, it puts you into a different sort of detention. A ‘diminished responsibility’ plea (if there is such a thing) is even more complicated. Dementia with lots of regrets, remorse, apologies, promises, concrete plans etc, would probably mean that M would be treated lightly. Best to let the lawyer argue it, especially if M is not necessarily prepared to grovel apologetically.
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igloo572 Oct 3, 2020
“grovel apologetically”.... it IS skill, isn’t it.
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For what it is worth, Hubby's doctor told him if he ever hurt someone in a crash and they sued; they would probably Subpoena his medical records. He has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. They would win and take everything we have because we knew he was impaired. So, I guess the answer is, has she been diagnosed?
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