Being young, drunk and stupid can come with lifelong consequences. And those consequences can come even if you weren't drunk. Just ask a Tucson guy we'll call Sam.
Twenty-something Sam was an upstanding person: a former soldier, an intelligent and compassionate chap who was aiming for grand things.
"I wanted to be a lawyer to help people," he writes in an email. Sam instead found himself on the other side of the law as a defendant in a crime that got plenty of press due to its grisly nature.
The crime involved a severed arm.
Now Sam did not sever the arm. Nor was it his arm. The arm belonged to one of the two passengers in the Jeep that Sam was driving on that fateful night in 2009. Sam had agreed to give two guys a ride, guys we'll call Mr. V and Mr. Choke. Sam said both of them had been drinking, and a fight erupted between Sam and Mr. Choke.
That's when Mr. Choke put Sam in a chokehold while they were cruising down the street. Driving a Jeep while in a chokehold doesn't work out very well.
The out-of-control Jeep thus sideswiped a tree and Mr. V, who had been partly hanging out of the vehicle, ended up with his arm severed below the shoulder. As most folks may be wont to do when they see a severed arm in their vehicle, Sam freaked out.
With Mr. V and Mr. Choke out of the vehicle, Sam drove to an apartment complex and threw the arm in a Dumpster.
Police found Mr. V at the scene of the accident and the arm in the Dumpster, but docs were unable to reattach it. It's not clear where Mr. Choke was directly after the accident, but it is clear that Sam's life is, well, screwed.
Sam is stuck with two felony convictions on his record—for leaving the scene of an accident and tampering with evidence. He did 30 days in jail and was placed on probation for 36 months. His probation was shortened by six months for good behavior.
The incident "has immeasurably affected me, my family and crushed any hope of having a normal life," Sam writes. "Every day I live with this. My career in the military is over. I owned a few guns and ATF raided my home to take the guns as I was unaware ... I needed to give them up. ... And, of course, there's the issue of having anyone I meet Google me and think I'm some kind of killer."
Mr. V and Mr. Choke didn't face any charges, although Mr. V was later awarded big bucks in a civil suit against Mr. Choke. Mr. Choke was deemed responsible for the accident, and he just happened to have a $1 million car insurance policy that took care of the award.
"How is it that I am guilty in a criminal court's eyes, but civil courts found that the man that had me in the chokehold was guilty?" Sam asked. "And in the criminal case there were no charges filed against the guy that had me in the chokehold?
"One word," Sam says. "Money." (Sam also points out that Mr. Choke's dad is a lawyer.)
While we must note that Sam did, indeed, technically leave the scene of the accident and "tamper with evidence," should a guy who ended up with a severed arm in his Jeep through no fault of his own get some kind of break?
"It's very difficult not only because of my background now with a felony record, but the mental weight of that night," Sam says. "The horrors of it were unimaginable. I was in the Army; I have seen death or the pain of a wounded friend. But that night was something I couldn't piece together. It's something that has forced me to lose confidence in my social relationships with the world around me."
So what's the moral of the story here? We get several of them, actually.
Make sure there's a lawyer in the family. Stock up on loads of cash if you ever expect to face any type of charges. And if you do end up with a criminal record, expect felonies to haunt you for the rest of your life, punishing you again and again—not unlike the gory image of a severed arm.