BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — Drunk drivers are everywhere in Kern County.
Many of them have done it before and many of them will do it again, even after getting caught.
In this installment of Kern Under the Influence, Eyewitness News reporter Jeff Platt uncovers how state laws are causing frustration here in Kern County.
In California, drunk drivers get a second chance, a third chance, and in many cases a fourth chance before they ever do real jail time.
In between those chances they're on the road with you. Some of them claiming lives.
Six years ago, husband and father Taylor Embree left the house for work.
As he drove down Comanche Drive, he was hit by a drunk driver.
"He was going 90 miles an hour through a corner and never even applied his brakes, when he hit Taylor head on," Britney Embree-Carrington, his widow, said, as she recalled that day. "This man in the big coroner letter jacket walks in and he had Taylor’s driver's license clipped on his clip board and just said, “Your husband's been killed by a drunk driver.’"
But this man, who killed Embree, wasn't just any drunk driver. He was a repeat offender with two DUIs already on his record.
"It makes you angry to think if this was not the first time, why was he out driving?" Embree-Carrington asked.
To get an answer to that question Eyewitness News sat down with Kern county Deputy District Attorney Kim Richardson.
"I handle all of the cases where someone is seriously injured by DUI or someone is killed," Richardson said.
According to her, cases like Embree’s are far too common. She blames state laws which allow someone to get three DUIs before they get a felony, and even then, they aren't necessarily seeing jail time.
"A lot of times with fourth-time DUIs, even if it's a felony, they still will do work release, which is like picking up trash, things like that. They’re not really spending any time in custody."
Richardson said state laws even allow drunk drivers who kill someone to walk away with minimal sentences. She remembered one case when an impaired driver hit a pregnant woman.
"Both she and her baby passed and he was ultimately sentenced to two years," Richardson said.
People like Embree are dying at the hands of people who broke the law repeatedly and weren't locked up until it was too late, leaving their loved ones to believe the system is broken.
But what do those in charge of the system think?
"I would hope that Sacramento would be listening. I just don't know if that's a reality given that the state of our state is they are trying to remove people from the prison population and allow people to get out,” Richardson said.
So, while drunk drivers get away with a slap on the wrist, the victims are left to pay for those drunk drivers’ crimes. Some, as in Embree’s case, pay the ultimate price.
His widow is left with little trust in the system and no hope that things will improve. She wants lawmakers to think about every drunk driver they set free.
"It's really like playing Russian roulette and it's only a matter of time," Embree-Carrington said.