DWI offender recalls the struggles that come with offense

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McALLEN — A simple mistake can lead to years of headaches and hassle. Especially if you repeat that mistake again, and again … Fortunately, Telesforo Torrez never hurt anyone but himself when he drove while intoxicated. However, it made a wreck of his life as the penalties worsened with each arrest.

“It’s a lot of financial stress having to deal with probation, having to deal with paying the court fees,” said the 45-year-old McAllen resident. Drunk driving ruins lives for everyone involved.

Obviously, if an innocent victim dies, he or she loses precious years. The lives of friends and relatives are turned upside down. If someone is injured, they may have to endure life-long therapy and pain.

But the hurt extends to the drunk driver, too. If he kills someone, he’ll go to jail for years. He may be killed or seriously injured himself. The lives of his children are affected. The pain goes on and on.

Even without an accident, though, DWI convictions can create a great deal of turbulence in the offender’s life.

Torrez received his first two DUIs when he was in his mid-20s and the second 10 years later. His life is finally back on track, but it was a hassle getting there. Especially after the third one about 10 years ago.

“I ended up going through this program for DWI offenders with Judge Bobby Flores,” he said. “It actually helped me out a lot. I had to get counseling there at the probation office.”

The program required him to have an interlock device on his vehicle. The device required him to blow into the device to ensure he hadn’t been drinking. A camera ensured it was indeed him blowing into the unit.

“I did the whole group sessions with the counselors,” he said. “I ended up succeeding in the program.”

The situation caused serious distress in his professional life too.

“I wouldn’t be able to get a job because I’d had a recent DWI,” he recalled. “It’s like, ‘We can’t really hire you because it requires driving, it requires that you have a valid driver’s license.’ And for awhile my license was suspended.”

No license meant others had to give him rides when he needed to be someplace.

“It was a big inconvenience not only for myself but say for my family, my mom, my brother, my sister, friends,” he said. “I’d have to ask, ‘Hey can you pick me up, hey can you drop me off, hey can you take me home.’ It was a huge impact on my life.”

He’s finally been able to move on. He still occasionally has a beer or two, but nothing like when he was younger. With a driver’s license and a few years since his last DWI, he’s been able to move forward professionally.

He recently obtained employment as a surgical technologist. But the question remains, why did he keep drinking and driving after the first DWI?

“Sometimes what happens is you don’t quite become addicted to it but there’s a tendency of not making very good decisions when you’re under the influence,” he said. “In my case, once I started drinking I couldn’t easily say, ‘OK, I’m gonna stop.’ I would just continue.”

Although many disagree, he said going out to bars and clubs and drinking with friends is an embedded part of Valley culture.