As a judge, he deals with DWI offenses every day. He’s continually amazed with how people don’t think about drinking and driving and what consequences lie ahead.

This is why Judge Steve Shipp, Hunt County Court at Law, is involved in Shattered Dreams, a program designed to help teenagers make the right choices in life.

Sponsored by DrugFree Greenville and the Tobacco and Alcoholic Beverage Committee, Shattered Dreams is a comprehensive three-day event that includes an alcohol-related mock car crash with “victims” and “fatalities,” the arrest of the “drunk driver,” a memorial assembly and a trial for the “drunk driver.” The event will be from Feb. 28 through March 2 at Greenville High School. Emergency personnel, community leaders and students from GHS and Greenville Christian School will participate in the program.

Shipp will preside as the judge for the “drunk driver” at 7 p.m., March 2, in the Hunt County Court House on the third floor in Judge Leonard’s court. The trial will consist of attorneys and a jury made up of community members.

In a real trial, Shipp said it’s up to the parties to decide on a jury. “People have the right to have a jury to decide whether or not they were driving while intoxicated, and the right to have the jury decide punishment,” he said. “The jury can serve one or both of these functions, or the judge can do it.”

The Hunt Count Court at Law deals in all criminal classes, A and B misdemeanor cases and all juvenile cases. The court is also the primary probate court (decedent’s estates and guardianships), the mental health court and deals with civil cases with damages not exceeding $100 thousand.

If it’s a person’s first DWI, it’s a class B offense, with punishment up to $2,000 and/or six months in the county jail, or probation. If it’s a second DWI, it’s a “special” class B offense, punishment up to $3,000 and/or up to a year in the county jail, or probation. In three or more DWIs, the case will probably be handled in the District Court as a felon, with possible penitentiary time.

Shipp said many of the people he sees are between the ages of 17 and 25, but they are all treated as adults. During 2005, Shipp’s court handled 300 DWI convictions.

“The DWIs that I see do not involve any serious injuries or fatalities,” he said. “If these occur, even if it is a first DWI, it will be handled in the District Court.

“Therefore, I usually deal with the cases where the individual made the stupid decision to drink and drive and got caught.

Even in these "victimless," DWIs the fines are usually about $400 to $600, court costs to the county and state of $366, attorney fees of $200 to $2,000 and probation for six to 24 months. To be on probation, you have to pay $60 per month, and in order to keep your license (if it isn't automatically suspended because you are under 21) you need to pay the State $1,000 each year for the three years after conviction.”

Shipp said he was fortunate enough to be asked to participate in Shattered Dreams. “The entire program is important because it tries to get the kids involved to think about the consequences of their actions,” he said. “This is very hard for teenagers to grasp.

“For the most part, their maturing brains can’t yet realize the far reaching effects of their actions. They can only see how something affects them in the here and now. This has been scientifically proven. They hope what ever they are doing at the moment will make them feel good as they are doing it, but they can't fathom how it might make them feel tomorrow or a year from now, or how it might effect someone that is close to them.

“Shattered Dreams, through its graphic depiction of the direr consequences that sometime results from DWIs, will hopefully drive this point home to at least some of them.

“Shattered Dreams is to make people think. And that is the message I would like to get across to the teenagers and anyone that drinks and drives intoxicated.”