INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — The Lake Tahoe DUI Victim Impact Panel needs new participants to share emotional stories of personal loss caused by drunken and intoxicated drivers.
The panel, which takes place once a quarter at Incline Village Justice Court, involves victims of DUI-related incidents — or those who’ve been at fault — in an attempt to sway first-time offenders from making a worse mistake.
“Basically, it’s sharing the worst-case scenario and letting people be aware this can happen … to let people know that once you’re behind the wheel, all bets are off,” said Incline resident Erik Randall.
For Randall, his recent participation hits home hard, considering he is one of those who was at fault.
In a well-documented story, on July 1, 2001, Randall, then 24, had been drinking heavily all day before deciding to drive home. En route, he struck and killed Kings Beach resident Francisco Sanchez, 28, near the Highway 28/Mt. Rose intersection.
He eventually was sentenced to consecutive sentences for killing Sanchez and fleeing the scene, and he spent roughly a decade as an inmate at the Northern Nevada State Correctional Center.
“(The panel) has been good for me. It keeps me in check and is able to keep my story fresh,” Randall said Wednesday. “Instead of the memory being put on the back burner, hearing my story, this is real, and it’s helpful when you get some feedback from people who thank me for sharing my story.”
Randall’s parents — the Rev. Dick Randall and his wife, Mary Kay — have participated since the first Incline panel in January 2010, speaking of the far-reaching impacts Erik’s crimes had on family members and friends.
“All of us go through challenges in life. The issue is whether we learn from them and can share with others,” Dick Randall said. “It’s never been easy sharing, but the reward is phenomenal, just knowing that you’re helping someone else.”
The Randalls are moving from Incline this summer, after Erik earns his degree with honors from Sierra Nevada College, and the court is looking for new participants.
“(Panelists) need to have had an experience in which they or a loved one or a close friend has been negatively impacted by a DUI,” said Incline Justice of the Peace Alan Tiras.
The program was created to comply with Nevada law, which, as of Oct. 1, 2009, required DUI offenders to attend a live victim impact panel.
It’s not intended to judge or demean, Tiras said, but to educate about potential consequences for making a decision to drink or take drugs and drive.
“It really gives people the opportunity to have a dialogue,” he said. “It’s a very different context from the rest of the court experience, and hopefully it gives us a chance to provide an impact on the defendant.”
Incline resident Deborah Hackett has also been on the panel since its inception at Lake Tahoe. Her father, David, was killed more than 40 years ago by a drunken driver, when Deborah was just 4 years old.
While part of her ambition to volunteer on the panel is to aid her healing process, another is to help people who may need guidance.
“I don’t want the same thing to happen to a little boy or girl like that happened to me,” Hackett said. “If I can impact just one person to make a different decision, then I’ve been successful … ideally, more than one person, and if I can get them to think differently, then it’s worth it.”
The court’s bailiff, Hans Keller, who is president of the board of directors of the Tahoe DUI Awareness Program, coordinates the program, which also was created to provide a Tahoe location so locals don’t have to commute to Carson City or Reno. The next panel is 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 6. Anyone interested in volunteering should contact Keller by March 31 at email@example.com.