by Danny Craig
photography by Kati Kelly

Receiving a D.U.I. has not deterred the aspiration of becoming a school teacher for 21-year-old Dan Miyashiro. The experience was the first of many lesson plans for him. / photo by Kati Kelly

Receiving a D.U.I. has not deterred the aspiration of becoming a school teacher for 21-year-old Dan Miyashiro. The experience was the first of many lesson plans for him. / photo by Kati Kelly

For Dan Miyashiro, there was fright in seeing the flashing lights of a police car in his rear-view mirror. He was 20-years-old and had never been pulled over for any reason by a police officer. He had never seen the inside of a police car, and he certainly had never been reprimanded for driving under the influence.

“You don’t want to be in the back seat of a squad car hard seats, it’s cold,” says Miyashiro. “When they slapped the cuffs on me in front of my friends, that’s when I felt like I had done something really terrible.”

Miyashiro, a senior at the University of La Verne, was with friends at a party the night of March 5, 2000. He drank beer along with his companions, as it was the social norm for the entire evening. When the festivities drew to a close, he drove back to one of the University of La Verne residence halls on the main campus.

“I was at the point where I shouldn’t have driven home, but I did. Obviously, I should have obeyed the law, but you never think it’s going to happen to you,” he says thoughtfully.

After, socializing for a couple of hours, Miyashiro left to drive back to his residence hall in the early hours of the morning. While driving to his destination, less than a half-mile away, Miyashiro rolled through a stop sign, prompting the attention of a patrolling La Verne police car. The officer pulled him over in the parking lot of his residence hall, just 10 yards away from the door to his floor.

“The first thing that came into my head, was, ‘As long as they don’t give me a Breathalyzer [test], I can pass these tests,'” recalls Miyashiro.

Miyashiro passed all of the necessary hand-eye coordination exams and hoped to retreat to his room with a lesson learned and an enormous scare to put him to sleep. Relief filled Miyashiro until the arrival of a second police car brought the on-duty sergeant, who called for the Breathalyzer exam after an assessment of the situation.

When the item of protocol was announced, Miyashiro said the only thought in mind was, “I’m done.” There was a clear realization that the evening’s courses of events were not going to end in his favor.

The reading on the machine told the officers that Miyashiro’s blood/alcohol level was .19, clearly exceeding the legal .01 limit for minors in the state of California.

Miyashiro remembers how the sergeant looked at the officer after reading the results. He said, “See? That’s why we have to do breathalyzers.”

Miyashiro was taken to the La Verne Police Department, while an officer waited by his red jeep vehicle so it could be towed out of its Oaks space and then impounded.

At the station, he tried to be polite while having his fingerprints and mugshots taken, but he found that being silent was to his benefit since the arresting officer did not appreciate the repetition of hearing, “No, sir” and “Yes, sir.” The officer treated him with a professional manner, but clearly let Miyashiro know the severity of the situation by maintaining an impersonable tone in their dealings.

He was escorted to a room in the facility known as the “drunk tank.” There, individuals in Miyashiro’s situation stay in a cell with padding that covers the walls and floor to prevent its inhabitants from harming themselves. There were no beds, just a toilet. That is were he spent the remaining five hours of the night. Surprisingly, Miyashiro escaped the eerie environment by sleeping until the morning.

After eating the eggs, ham, hash browns and orange juice given to him for breakfast, Miyashiro was released to go home, with a court date, the name of his probation officer and mixed emotions.

“When I woke up I couldn’t do anything but laugh about it. It wasn’t funny. It was just that I’m a college student, and I had never been pulled over in my life. I’ve been driving since I was 16. At the time, it was two months before my 21st birthday. You can’t take it back. You have to accept what you’ve done,” he says.

Acceptance was not as easy for Miyashiro when he realized that he would have to tell his family about what had happened.

He spoke with his mother on the phone the following night and could not find the opportunity to tell her. He ended the conversation as though it was a normal weekly check in.

“I was not prepared to tell her,” says Miyashiro.

Three days lapsed from the night spent in jail before he found the courage to tell his mother the news.

“It was eating me up inside, having this huge burden on my shoulders, knowing that they should know about it, and I didn’t tell them. So, finally, a couple of days later, I called them up and told my mom,” says Miyashiro.

With his friends out at a social gathering, he retreated to his room where he sat to make his call. As it was the middle of the week, Miyashiro said that his mother probably sensed something was unique about the call, considering it was not Sunday, when such a practice was customary.

“So I called her up and said, ‘Mom, I’m going to tell you something, and don’t get mad, hear me out first.’ She said, ‘Uh oh. What is it?’ I told her everything that happened. I was really scared to tell her; I thought she’d just start yelling at me on the phone.”

He was on the phone for nearly three hours with his mother that night. However, the tone from either receiver was calm and with poise.

“When I told her, she said, “You know it could have been a lot worse. You could have hurt someone. Someone could be dead because of you right now.’ I just said, ‘Yeah you’re right.’

Miyashiro says his mother’s words were supportive that night and have remained that way ever since when talking on the subject.

“I was talking to her tonight, and she said, ‘Have you learned your lesson?'” After a pause of reflection in the story, Miyashiro’s answer, “Yes, I have,” seemed simple, yet fitting in nature.

Miyashiro is constantly reminded of his lesson learned through many channels.

Immediately, following the incident, he had to budget $1,500 for a lawyer, $1,200 for the state fine, $500 to retrieve his jeep from the impound yard, $500 for enrollment in his required alcohol-rehabilitation program and $100 to reinstate his driver’s license after the duration of its one-year suspension.

“If you’re going to stop someone from drinking and driving, this is how you’re going to do it,” expresses Miyashiro, as he lists his array of responsibilities.

Additionally, he found himself being reminded through his regular appointments with a probation officer, his six required Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings and the 12-week rehabilitation program that met once a week for three hours on Monday nights.

While attending the rehab program, Miyashiro observed the eclectic make-up of attendees on those Monday nights.

“You walk in there, and you just see a bunch of random heads a working guy, about 50; he’s well off. It’s just random. The law doesn’t discriminate in this case, I guess,” he notes.

For Miyashiro, the classes and the phone calls were a difficult but culminating experience that served their purpose.

“In a way though, I’m glad this happened. If I didn’t get caught, I’d still be doing it,” he shares. “I’m not going to do this again because I don’t want go through this again.”

With various public campaigns to prevent drunk driving, Miyashiro says that no message will ring as clear as the one he has been given.

As he thinks of his friends at the University, he hopes that having gone through this experience will serve as an example when they are faced with a similar Saturday night drive, whether it is 10 miles, or just across campus.

“For my closest friends, I would really wish that they take something from this as well. If not, then it’s on them,” says Miyashiro.